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How ADHD & Bedtime Can Work Together
Many of us can relate that some of the struggles of an ADHD adult occur at night.
Case in point: there are issues of hyperactivity where you're still game for another physical activity due to too much energy, the struggle of needing to refrain from eating chocolates or anything sweet, our procrastination woes, and many more difficulties that won't let us be at peace during the night.
One of the things I look forward to when I wake up in the morning is to sleep better the coming night 😴. I always long for a better night's sleep because I've struggled to get a decent amount of sleep every night because of my ADHD symptoms. Falling asleep can be a challenge to many people with ADHD because of the endless thoughts and distracted brain that we often have.
Have you ever tried laying down in bed 🛌🏽 early in the evening and still find yourself rolling under your sheets until the wee hours of the morning? How do you deal with those instances when you cannot fall asleep quickly, and no matter what you do, you'll end up sleeping late?
Let’s find the answers here.
More Screen Time and Distractions
One of the things that can affect your good sleep hygiene is the use of your gadget hours before bedtime 📱. A related study shows that using technology-related devices an hour before your desired sleeping time affects your brain due to the emission of blue light that can disrupt your body's melatonin production. This neurochemical is responsible for making you feel sleepy and getting a good night's sleep.
To avoid sleep problems, we should make ourselves accustomed to not using our electronic devices during bedtime 👩💻. Limiting screen time an hour before sleeping makes us feel more stable. This way, we can have enough time to unwind and relax our minds and body for a good night's sleep. However, our ADHD brains are wired differently, so don’t be surprised if this practice only helps a little. ADHD and Relaxing, after all, are sometimes hard to put together inside our minds. We are prone to be distracted all the time, and since we can have an overly active brain, this doesn't seem like an easy-to-achieve step.
To solve this dilemma, we can try to do relaxation exercises for us to be more in touch with our bodies and to be able to clear our minds before sleep. We can do some simple stretching, yoga 🧘, or even deep breathing exercises, which are all helpful to relax both your body and mind. Relaxation techniques like these also consume the remaining energy in our bodies, so that we can be more prepared for sleep.
Last night when I was about to sleep, I came across a Tiktok video explaining our dopamine cravings compared to neurotypical persons. According to the short explainer, our dopamine levels are low and need to be replenished for us to concentrate or calm down a little bit. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centers. This means that we might seek things that will make us feel good to function well.
Now, the issue is, sometimes, we seek these “feel good things” during the night, when we’re supposed to be sleeping! Because they are rewarding and pleasurable, we might spend a long time browsing web pages or watching TikTok videos. All these can delay or make it difficult for us to sleep.
The types of content that we watch can also bring sleep disturbances. If we watch long movies at night and the theme revolves around something that can trigger our anxiety or keep us on the edge of our seats, then it would be hard for us to sleep soundly during those nights.
The best way to combat this is by lessening our exposure to social media and other forms of technology 📱, especially when it's already late in the evening. We can try reading a book before going to sleep as it can be relaxing and doesn’t affect the melatonin production in our bodies.
The Workaholic ADHD Brain at Night
I function well at night. I am not a morning person and often have daytime sleepiness 😪. When you get to know me better, you’ll know I have more trouble paying attention during the day because I don't get enough sleep at night. However, when the evening comes, that's when you can depend on my ADHD brain.
I don't know what's with the moon or darkness that I am more inclined to work during nighttime 😅 . Maybe because I have already set my bedtime routine during the late hours at night, I have the energy to do everything before that. But I also think a peaceful environment is often achieved during the night when we are less likely to be disturbed, giving us time to think more clearly.
If you are like me, who works better at night, try to set a bedtime schedule so you can still have time to wind down and relax before finally going to sleep. Make sure your work area is clean and organized, so you can focus on your tasks more. Take a break in between work sessions and drink some water, to be well-hydrated. Drinking water can also give us one less sleep disturbance to worry about at night, the restless leg syndrome.
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Racing Thoughts Going to Sleep Disorders
What if people think we are just making excuses when we say we have ADHD? What if they don't understand our struggles? What if many kids will struggle with ADHD because other kids will bully them for it? What if we can't do anything to stop our ADHD? So many what-ifs are running through my head every day that I can't keep track of them.
These racing thoughts often give us difficulty in sleeping at night 😵. We overthink and become anxious about things that haven't even happened yet. It's like we are living in a world full of uncertainties. What's even worse is our poor sleep may make us worry more about things we cannot control. We often have trouble falling asleep because of racing minds, and sometimes the intrusive thoughts also join the party.
Sleep Deprivation can branch to more serious problems and comorbidities. Sleep disorders, like circadian rhythm sleep disorders, insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome can make our lives more difficult. Consequently, other comorbid disorders can make it hard to fall asleep, especially with racing thoughts. Anxiety problems, depression, mood disorders, and substance abuse can happen simultaneously if not managed well.
Sleep Problems and ADHD Medications
Sleep issues may arise when a mental health professional prescribes ADHD medications. Though this may not be intended, specific side effects of the medication may cause problems with sleeping. For instance, some more common side effects are disordered breathing, intense or decreased appetite, irritability, and headaches.
It is essential to communicate well with your doctor about ADHD medication. There are stimulant and non-stimulant medications that doctors can prescribe depending on your need 💊. Stimulants are often the first line of treatment as they are more effective in improving focus and concentration. However, they may not be suitable for everyone as some people may experience more side effects than others, especially regarding your bedtime routine. If this happens, you can always ask your doctor to change their prescription to suit your preference well.
Get Better Sleep Even with ADHD
If getting a sleep specialist 👩⚕️ is not on your list of steps to improve your poor sleep because of ADHD, there are still ways to get better sleep. Studies show that some people with ADHD may do better with supplements of melatonin for their difficulty staying asleep and shorter total sleep time.
Both ADHD and sleep might be hard to manage and deal with, but don't give up. Finding the perfect combination that works for you often takes a lot of time and effort. Whether trying out different medications or using other means to fall asleep, never give up until you find what works best for you. 💪
Here are some sleep tips that can help you improve the quality of your sleep and reduce unnecessary bedtime activities:
Set Up Comfortable Sleeping Space
Start your night by having the temperature of your preference. Set the right room temperature that can make you feel comfortable going to bed. You can also light up scented candles to freshen up your room if you aren't sensitive. Use black-out curtains to prevent unnecessary light from entering your room and disturbing your sleep.
You can also play some relaxing background music to set the mood 🎹 . But I suggest you play white noises like the sound of raindrops or leaves rustling to help you focus on sleep and not get distracted by the music. And lastly, have a comfortable bed 🛌🏽 and pillow that can support your spine and neck well.
Create Consistent Bedtime Routine
After taking care of your sleeping area, try to focus on your physical and mental hygiene.
Take a warm bath before bedtime 🛀, brush your teeth, perform a skincare routine, and pamper yourself with a light massage. You'll feel more relaxed and less stressed about the day.
When you've already taken care of your physical needs, it's time to focus on your mental ones. Do light stretching, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation to calm yourself down. You can also read a book or listen to calming music 🎹 to prepare for sleep.
Exercise Frequently and Maintain Balanced Diet
Behavioral strategies like being disciplined in performing exercise or eating a healthy diet can reduce the risk of sleep problems.
Trimming down excess energy from the day by exercising can help you sleep at night. It doesn't have to be an intense workout. A simple walk in the park or light yoga 🧘 can do wonders. You can feel exhausted by these activities, which can lead to better sleep quality. Just make sure not to do any exercises 3 hours before bedtime as it might keep you up at night.
A balanced diet can help as well in improving sleep. Eat foods that are rich in magnesium and tryptophan as they can promote sleep. Some examples of these food items are whole grains, seeds, nuts, dairy, and dark leafy greens. Avoid eating large meals before bedtime and drinking caffeinated beverages 6 hours before sleep to prevent unnecessary trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Limit Caffeine Intake
One of the crucial things you should consider hours before going to bed is what you eat and drink. Reducing caffeine, sweets, and junk foods can lessen your sleep difficulties. As we know, these foods contain stimulants that can keep you awake. So, it's best to avoid them, especially at night.
Instead of drinking coffee, drink herbal tea like chamomile or lavender tea. These beverages boost digestion, promote sleep, and have a calming effect. Try decaffeinated drinks like hot chocolate or warm milk before bedtime.
Minimize Use of Gadgets Before Bedtime
To not be sleep-deprived and to have no difficulty waking up the next day, sleep earlier. This way, you have enough time to relax and do things that can help you sleep, like reading a book or taking a bath.
Avoid watching television, browsing social media, or working on your laptop 💻 in bed. The blue light coming from these gadgets suppresses the production of melatonin, which is the hormone that makes you feel sleepy.
There are more ways to manage ADHD and sleep. But the best way to do it is to be more mindful of your habits and establish a routine that can help you sleep better at night. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) might get in our way to easily fall asleep, but as long as we know how to control it and we're more aware of our surroundings. We can still manage to get a good night's sleep.😘
ADHD and Bedtime: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Can ADHD make it harder for you to fall asleep?
Yes, it can. Many ADHD traits contribute to the difficulty of falling asleep. For instance, having racing thoughts at night, which is a common ADHD trait, can prevent you from feeling sleepy. Some people with ADHD are also more productive at night. This discourages them from sleeping early because they think they have more important things to do.
Is it true that using gadgets can cause problems, like insomnia?
Yes. The blue light from gadgets, like laptops and smartphones can interfere with the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes us feel sleepy.
What can you do to have a good night's sleep even with ADHD?
Performing little things, such as making sure your room is conducive for sleep, matters a great deal. Avoiding using gadgets at least an hour before bedtime also helps. Relaxation techniques, such as yoga, warm bath, and listening to music, can also help relax the body and mind, allowing you to sleep faster and more peacefully. Finally, don’t forget to ask your mental health professional for help if things become overwhelming.