Six Ideas For Getting Better Sleep with ADHD

You heard it right, it is reported that 50 percent of children and 80 percent of adults with ADHD have some kind of sleep challenge. So the next time you are up in the middle night, believe me when I say, you are not alone!

This cycle of going to bed late and not getting enough sleep can really mess up your day and affect your ADHD symptoms. You can almost guarantee it will be harder to focus and pay attention and you may be more sensitive or in a bad mood. It’s tough to go through your day when you’re physically and emotionally exhausted. 

There are many reasons why this may be happening; here are three of the most common ones I hear: 

  • Staying Up Too Late - People get their second wind and want to catch up on what they didn’t get done during the day.
  • Hyper-Focusing - They are engaged in something they really care about, time slips by, and before they know it, it’s two in the morning. 
  • Ruminating - You lay down, but the thoughts in your head don’t stop, your mind keeps going around and around in circles. 

On the podcast this week, Pete asked me what I say to people who believe they are just night owls and can’t change their behavior. My first point to his question is if you don’t believe you can do anything different, then you won’t. So first things first, shift your thinking. You have to believe it’s possible to change your routine. I know it's not easy and unfortunately there isn't a quick solution, but believing is the first step in any change at all. 

In the show, we focus on how to build a bedtime routine, but what else can you do? Here are a few ideas to consider this week:

1) Exercise - If you’re not being consistent with your exercise right now, get back into a routine and pay attention to how it affects your sleep. Most people will say it helps them sleep better. If that’s the case, make this a priority. 

2) Pay Attention To What Your Paying Attention To - Anxiety and ADHD can be related. Statistics also show that if you have ADHD, you may have anxiety along with it. So pay attention to what you are reading and watching in the evening. Watching the news can be extremely depressing or upsetting and what you see you on TV can play out in your dreams or thoughts at night. I encourage you to watch and read things that are uplifting and promote positive thoughts. 

4) Electronics Cut - Off - About one hour before you would like to be asleep, turn off the TV, charge your phones and tablets in another room, and start your bedtime routine. We talk about this in the podcast, but I definitely think it’s worth mentioning again and worth trying, just to see if it makes a difference for you. I have had clients swear that this simple change has made a huge difference for them. 

5) White Noise Machine - A white noise machine can be very helpful in blocking out other noises that you may hear in your household, especially if you’re not the last person to go to bed. This can be great for kids and can also be used in conjunction with meditation if you are practicing it as part of your bedtime routine. The sounds can be very soothing and relaxing. 

6) Yoga - As part of your evening routine, consider doing some yoga or light stretching as a signal to calm your body down. Do this as your listening to the yoga Pandora* channel, what a great way to end a chaotic day and create a peaceful evening. 

In addition to the ideas above, take a look at this article, ADHD Sleep Problems: How to Rest Better Tonight! By William Dodson, M.D. It goes into greater depths on the kinds of sleep challenges many people with ADHD have as well as more treatment options. 

If your focus right now is to get better sleep, I really encourage you try some of the ideas this week, maybe even tonight. Not all of them just pick one or two, whatever resonates with you. Keep practicing and be as consistent as possible. Even just a few minutes of extra sleep can make a difference, that’s progress and moving you in the right direction! 

 Sleep well and until next time,

 Nikki