Like medications for any other mental or physical condition, medications for ADHD can also have some side effects.
Unfortunately, many doctors are not properly trained on ADHD in medical school. For example, here in Vancouver BC Canada, UBC medical students only get one hour on ADHD. So unless they went out to learn more about ADHD on their own time & dime, many aren’t that familiar with the condition of ADHD, let alone the medications which are one of many ways to manage ADHD, let alone how to manage some of their side effects.
Ideally, your doctor will tell you about the possible side effects of ADHD medications, how to manage them, and realistic expectation (pills won’t teach skills), but if they don’t, here are some tips from WebMD. Of course, before doing any changes to ADHD medications, ALWAYS discuss them with your doctor. If your doctor doesn’t know about ADHD, point them to Candra’s Canadian ADHD Practice Guidelines so they can learn.
Keep in mind one size never fits all, and one ADHD med never fits all. It can take time to get the right medication(s) and the right dose for you, they’re called medication trials, not medication psychics. You might also want to do an ADHD medication log too. The more information you can give your doctor on how/when the meds are working, the better they can adjust your dosage for maximum effectiveness
WebMD has some good tips on how you can reduce the side effects that sometimes come with ADHD medications. While they’re focused on children with ADHD, some of their medication tips are applicable to adults with ADHD. Here’s one of their sections of tips on managing side effects of ADHD medications.
Managing difficulties with sleep
- Give the morning dose of ADHD medication earlier in the day. Discuss medication changes with the doctor. It may be necessary to try shorter-acting medications.
- Don’t allow your child to drink caffeinated beverages. Cocoa and many sodas, coffees, and teas all contain caffeine. A child who drinks these in the afternoon or evening may be tossing and turning at bedtime.
- Establish a sleep-only zone. Your child’s bedroom should be dedicated to sleep — not for homework, not for entertainment. Move the computer, radio, television, toys, and games to another room. A few stuffed animals are fine, but there should be no other distractions.
- Teach your child to relax at bedtime. A special blanket or a stuffed animal can help a child fall asleep. But it’s best to avoid bedtime activities that depend on a parent’s presence — like rocking or holding the child until sleep comes.
- Establish consistency. Bedtimes and waking times should be the same seven days a week. Waking times are more important than bedtimes in establishing sleep rhythms. It is easier to enforce a waking time than a bedtime. “Sleeping in” can be a sign that the child is not getting enough sleep.
- Establish daytime routines. Regular meal and activity times help, too. Routines make it easier for children to “wind down” to sleep.
- Discourage midnight visits. Waking up at night can become a habit for children. It can also be a way to get attention. While you don’t want to let a child cry themselves to sleep, it’s best to discourage middle-of-the-night visits with mom and dad or midnight snacks. Also, don’t allow interesting toys near the child’s bed (a stuffed animal or two is fine).
- Avoid sleep medications. Medications stop working over time, and may affect daytime alertness. They may also wear off during the night, and cause night waking. Some medications may cause nightmares or other types of sleep problems. If medications are absolutely necessary, talk to your child’s doctor about safe and effective treatments.
- Consider medical problems. Allergies, asthma, or conditions that cause pain can disrupt sleep. If your child snores loudly and/or pauses in breathing, medical evaluation is necessary. Consult your physician for help with the possible medical causes of sleep problems.
I find that it’s also useful to turn off all stimulating electronic devices like computers, tv, cell phones, video games an hour before you go to sleep so you give your racing ADHD brain time to slow down so you get to sleep earlier AND have better sleep. Sometimes this is easier said than done, I know by personal experience:)
For some people, having a snack with protein before bed helps them get to sleep, for others it keeps them awake, so experiment to see what types/quantity/timing of food(s) works best for you.
Another tip I and some of my adult ADHD coaching clients have found useful is to have a pad of paper and pen by your bed. So just as you’re getting ready to bed, if you think of something you have to/want to do the next day/ worry/concern, to write it down on the pad and remember to look at it the next day near your daytimer. That way you don’t have that thought/worry rattling around in your brain all night taking up psychic rent when you’re half asleep and too tired to do anything about it.
Check out the other tips on managing the side effects of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder medications on Web MD’s site.
What tips have you found useful in managing the side effects of ADHD medications?