I find it ironic that I am publishing this particular post on a day when I am operating on far too little sleep. Take my word for it, it’s important!
Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
I’ve written about the importance of a good night’s sleep so often I think that I must be the Sleep Fairy!
I probably don’t need to tell you about the importance of a good night’s sleep, but I do need to tell you about ADHD and sleep.
People with Attention Deficit Disorder have minds that race. They’re constantly jumping from one thought to another, or sometimes from one thought to several.
Have you ever seen that video where one mouse trap is snapped, and suddenly mouse traps are going off everywhere at once? ADHD minds are kind of like that.
The problem is that they often don’t slow down at the end of the day, even if you’re really tired. In fact, sometimes ADHD minds go into overdrive when you go to bed.
The reason for this is that when you’re in bed, in the dark, all other distractions and entertainment has been removed. There is nothing to see, to watch, or listen to, and so anything that you might have forgotten or pushed out of the way during the day now has an opportunity to be heard. Creative ideas will often surface, or worries, or things to add to the to-do list. This can make getting to sleep difficult, to say the least.
Add in the fact that most ADDers work right up until bedtime, and then probably go to bed later than they should, and you’ve got a recipe for sleep deprivation.
The other thing working against them – especially for children, who typically do go to bed on time – is that people with Attention Deficit Disorder have trouble making transitions.
Any kind of transition is hard, but it seems that the ones involving sleep are especially so. Getting up in the morning is no easier than getting to sleep the night before, partly because there hasn’t been enough sleep, and partly because it’s another transition. There are some things that can help:
Find your optimal sleep time, whether it’s 6 hours or 10.
Be diligent about getting to bed early enough so that you can get optimal sleep. That means building in as much as an extra hour. So, if you need 8 hours of sleep, and need to be up at 6:00 am, you should be in bed by 9:00 pm.
Start a bedtime ritual and stick to it. You probably had one for your kids when they were young: bath time, brush your teeth, a story, and then tucked in for the night. You can do the same thing for yourself. By establishing such a routine, you are easing your body into sleep. After a while, it will react accordingly.
Use various resources to help you wind down. Herb tea is a good one; so is yoga. There are some specific yoga routines designed to help you get a good night’s sleep. I used one before, when visiting a friend, and I was astonished at how well I slept. Meditation can also be used to quiet the mind and prepare it for sleep. I will be introducing my own ADHD Mediation CD soon.
A technique that I have found very effective is to simply say to myself “Go to sleep” any time I catch my mind racing. I suppose it works because I’ve used it for so long, but most of the time, it does work.
Create a “peaceful hour” one hour before bedtime. Switch from television to soft music, or at least to a show less jarring than “Cops”. If you’re reading to your children, or letting them read by themselves, dial that down, too. No action adventures so close to bedtime. See if you can’t find something a little mellower.
Keep in mind that people with ADHD are very tactile people. We’re very sensitive to textures, smells, and sounds. So, if your child tells you one night
that the same pajamas he’s been wearing for months are suddenly itchy or scratchy, he’s telling the truth.
Be extra careful with your bedroom environment; it really can affect sleep quality. Think about removing the computer and TV from the room, choose nightwear that’s comfortable, and make sure your bedding is soothing and comforting.
Create a cutoff time for that last cup of coffee or Diet Coke. Caffeine disrupts your sleep.
Work – whether homework or job related – needs to be completed or at least stopped one hour or more before bed. It’s not helping your sleep any, and if it’s something you need to remember, you won’t retain it if you fall asleep right away.
Finally, view sleep as a gift to yourself; something that you do to take really good care of yourself and allow your brain to function at its peak. When you allow sleep deprivation to become the norm, you are also allowing not only your ADHD symptoms full rein, but the co-morbidities, too. (Co-morbidities are the things that come along with ADHD, like learning disabilities, depression, and anxiety.)
Sleep allows your body and mind time to refresh and renew itself. Don’t take it for granted.