When considering ADHD (attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder) medication and caffeine, the initial association that likely comes to mind is, wow, that’s a lot of stimulation. ADHD meds, like Adderall or Ritalin, can help enhance focus and alertness, preparing you to conquer a new day without any distractions. However, this is not the reality for at least one person with ADHD.
TikToker Pasha Marlowe, who is the content creator behind the account @neuroqueencoach, talks about all things marriage, therapy, ADHD, and autism. As an individual diagnosed with ADHD, she authentically shares popular insights with her viewers on living a fulfilling life despite this diagnosis. For instance, she explores the concept of combining caffeine and ADHD medication to promote a sense of relaxation and facilitate much-needed nighttime sleep or rejuvenating naps.
In a recently posted TikTok, Marlowe answers the intriguing question of why people with ADHD fall asleep after taking their medication and sipping it down with a cup of coffee. In order to enlighten her fans, she first describes what it feels like to have a diagnosis of ADHD without the effects of medication.
“Our baseline is chaos, ruminating thoughts, and intrusive thoughts.” she said in the TikTok.
She continued by saying that the coffee and the medication work together to bring people with the diagnosis to a state of stability.
With the help of both, the brain can begin to relax and those thoughts that race through one’s mind start to dissipate.
“We might be able to rest our head on the couch, post coffee and stimulants and take a moment to breathe and sleep,” she said.
This 45-second TikTok received comments like, “Some people don’t believe it works. But it does,” and “omg yes this healed my soul.” This information and the reactions that followed weren’t enough for us. We needed to learn more.
We spoke with Kate Hanselman, a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, who specializes in ADHD at Thriveworks. Hanselman provided us with important insights regarding the functionality and efficacy of this method. If you find it challenging to unwind and attain a calm mental state, we have some answers on if this sleeping hack might be suitable for you.
Should You Try This? An Expert Weighs In
It sounds strange, but Hanselman told us that any type of stimulant has the power to relax someone with ADHD. Hence the reason both caffeine and ADHD medication can put one in that calm state of mind.
Without a stimulating substance, Hanselman said an individual with an ADHD hyperactive subtype might feel fidgety, struggle to finish tasks, and interrupt often. She also mentioned another type of ADHD, the inattentive subtype, where one might get distracted easily, look spaced out, or have trouble focusing during a conversation.
“One hypothesis behind this is that stimulants reduce impulsivity and the urge to move, in addition to increasing motivation or reward in ADHD brains, which then supports an increased sense of calm,” she said to Sleepopolis.
“It’s not a clinical recommendation I make, since we’re trying to assess and maximize the effect of the stimulant without additional variables,” she said. “Let the stimulant do its work!”
If you are considering trying this before bed, think again. Hanselman said that taking both a stimulant and caffeine before bedtime could make it difficult to fall asleep, interrupt sleep, and even wake you up in the middle of the night. She said you will feel tired and, even worse, your ADHD symptoms will be heightened the next day.
“It could certainly make you feel too tired, really wound up, or any one of a number of side effects,” she said. “Remember that caffeine and stimulants both have side effects and with caffeine-containing products, it’s often unclear how much caffeine is in them.”
We learned about better alternatives if you struggle to relax or fall asleep with ADHD. Hanselman said it’s important to make environmental adjustments, such as changing the temperature, wearing comfy clothes, or getting a sound machine.
Even if you tried these changes and still struggle to relax, it might be time to speak with your doctor to see if mixing or changing your medication might work better. For now let’s keep the caffeine and ADHD medication far away from each other!
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