ADHD: Why can I only focus at night?

adhd focusing at night

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD is an extremely common neurological condition that can affect people’s behaviour, in particular, it affects the parts of the brain that help us to concentrate, focus and execute tasks. It is thought that ADHD affects around 1.8 million adults in the UK today and there are often adults and children that are undiagnosed. 

There are 3 main types of ADHD:

  1.     Inattentiveness – this type of ADHD affects the ability to focus, concentrate and finish tasks. People can appear distracted and forgetful and lose track of items and conversations.
  2.     Hyperactivity and impulsiveness – people with this type of ADHD often appear to be moving and talking constantly with a seeming inability to control their behaviours.
  3.     Combined – people with a combined type of ADHD display a mixture of both of the symptoms mentioned above, usually, they exhibit 6 of the 9 symptoms identified for each subtype, we will look at these in more detail further on.


Although there is no evidence-based research on people with ADHD having more focus at night, there are some mental health experts that believe there are several factors that contribute to a person with ADHD finding the evening and night time working conditions to be an advantage.

Symptoms of ADHD and how they can affect focus

Having difficulty focusing is one of the most common signs of ADHD, however, there are 9 symptoms in both the inattentive type and the hyperactive and impulsive ADHD type that can help if you think you may have ADHD. A person may be diagnosed if they exhibit at least 6 of the 9 symptoms from the list below- 

9 symptoms of Inattentive ADHD type:

  •     Difficulty working with details, often making mistakes in work and other activities.
  •     Difficulty remaining focused on tasks and sustaining attention during conversations, work meetings, lectures etc.
  •     Finding it difficult to listen and take on board instructions given, and easily distracted.
  •     Difficulty finishing a task and following instructions, can get easily side-tracked and lose focus.
  •     Difficulty with organisation and organising tasks and activities, particularly meeting deadlines, organising workspace, time management etc.
  •     Finding it difficult to engage in tasks that required prolonged mental effort and concentration, and would willingly avoid these types of situations like report writing, reviewing paperwork etc.
  •     Often misplaces and loses important items.
  •     Often and easily distracted by their thoughts.
  •     Often forgetful doing daily activities like keeping appointments, returning calls, paying bills and housework.


9 symptoms of Hyperactive and Impulsive ADHD type:

  •     Difficulty keeping still, often fidgeting/ squirming.
  •     Difficulty remaining seated when it is a requirement such as in work meetings or important appointments etc.
  •     Feelings of restlessness and the need to move about.
  •     Needing to talk excessively.
  •     Difficulty engaging in social and leisure activities quietly.
  •     Finding it difficult to remain still for an extended period such as in meetings, presentations, work lunches etc. 
  •     Often answers questions before it has been completed or completes other people’s sentences and finds it difficult waiting for their turn to speak.
  •     Also, difficulty waiting in line, waiting for their turn etc.
  •     Often interrupts conversations or takes over a task that another is trying to complete.


How working at night could help you with your productivity if you have ADHD

It’s easy to see why someone with ADHD would find it difficult to focus in the daytime. Trying to cope with all the symptoms mentioned above alongside constant daily distractions like childcare, chores around the house, appointments, answering calls, texts and emails, preparing meals and many other daily responsibilities, can make daytime productivity plummet, which means that a person with ADHD would naturally be drawn to a time of day to catch up when there is calm and quiet, like at night time.

It is also a common trait of someone with ADHD to prefer to work in short, concentrated chunks of time with long breaks in between, as they tend to find they have a higher rate of productivity this way. Starting a chunk of work early in the morning and then continuing later in the day or at night, can be a very helpful way for a person with ADHD to work, as there are fewer distractions. 

Finding it difficult managing your time can also play a role in an individual’s ability to focus. Feeling the need to constantly catch up and feeling the pressure to not get sidetracked can make working at night, when it’s quiet, a lot more manageable, allowing time for the things that couldn’t be managed in the day to get done.

To be able to maximise your focus at night, its good practice to try and avoid distractions as much as possible, as even though there are fewer than in the daytime, there are still things that can pull you away from the work you want to be doing, such as; social media and contact with others through you mobile or laptop. Try to avoid this by setting an agenda of what you want to accomplish and how and removing your phone from your workspace for the time being, also keep emails logged out until you have finished your task. Removing clutter from your desk or workspace and choosing a set amount of time just for work can all help with making your focus healthier and more productive.

Possible problems and how talking to a specialist ADHD clinic can help

While working with your natural abilities and instincts is a benefit to your personal and social life, working at night can create some problems and challenges in other areas of life. The main being sleep problems. Working at night can make it difficult to switch off and relax into sleep and can cause issues such as; delayed sleep, sleep deprivation and possibly disrupting your circadian rhythm. Sleep disorders such as insomnia can occur with continued delayed sleep and sleep deprivation and may also heighten the inability to focus, complete tasks and can possibly worsen other ADHD symptoms like executive dysfunction. 

If you have ADHD, productively working throughout the day can be extremely challenging and even though you may find it easier and more beneficial working at night, this can have a negative impact on your health, however, life can feel happier and much less stressful by speaking to a specialist ADHD clinic.

 Whether you have already been diagnosed or are unsure if you have ADHD, speaking to one of our ADHD psychiatrists to gain an assessment and diagnosis can be the first step into the correct treatment path for you, enabling you to tackle your work in the daylight hours and enjoy some well-deserved, relaxing evenings. Sanctum offers a comprehensive, multi-professional assessment for adults and children who may have ADHD. Sanctum’s diagnostic team have specialist experience in assessing and supporting individuals with ADHD, and our treatment plans can help you to live a happier, healthier life. 

If you would like to speak to Sanctum’s friendly team about obtaining an ADHD assessment or about ADHD treatment plans, you can get in touch here.

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