Tips for Better Sleep With ADD

Get a Good Night's Sleep With These Tips

Serene man sleeping in bed in the morning
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Sleep, or rather lack of good quality sleep, is often an issue for those with ADD / ADHD. Sleep is so important for our health, our well-being, our moods, our ability to focus and concentrate, but many people don’t get the sleep they need. As a result, ADD or ADHD symptoms are often worse during the day.

Readers responded to a request for sleep tips and the response was overwhelming. Thank you for helping one another.

Your tips are compiled below.

Maintain a Regular Bed and Wake Up Time

Many readers find that going to bed at a set time each night and waking up at a regular time each morning promotes better sleep. Our own internal biological clock helps regulate our sleep and wake cycles. It functions according to normal day and night schedules. When we maintain a regular wake up time in the morning it helps with sleep onset at night. A consistent bedtime at night in turn helps ensure that we get the adequate sleep we need.

Develop and Maintain a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

A simple, consistent and relaxing routine before bed helps prepare your body for sleep - listening to relaxing music or soothing “outdoor” sounds like running water or crickets, deep relaxation and breathing exercises, visualizing and channeling positive thoughts, a warm shower or bath, quiet focused playtime for children or quiet reading time for both adults and children.

A few more bedtime routine suggestions sent in from readers:

“We allow our son to take something to bed. It helps entertain his mind and hands in the event he is not ready to sleep right when he goes down.”

“My ADD son has always had difficulty letting his mind wind down so that he can fall asleep. When he was in early elementary we let him start listening to an excellent series of story tapes/CDS called ‘Adventures in Odyssey.’ They helped him relax with the lights out and eventually fall asleep.”

Read or Listen to a Book on Tape with Automatic Turn Off

Lots of readers like to read a book to prepare for sleep. One reader noted that if the book is really interesting, reading can sometimes backfire as it is easy to get sucked into a good book and read for hours! Her suggestion? A magazine. Others find that listening to books in bed is helpful.

“I decided to listen to a book on tape just before bedtime. I lay in bed in the dark with my eyes closed and listened. The tape would play for 30 minutes and then click off. Funny thing was that it took me several days to finish even the first side of the first tape because I kept falling asleep after just a few minutes of listening.”

White Noise

What is white noise? Any gentle, steady, monotonous, peaceful sound like a fan humming or background sounds that are calming and not stimulating.

“I use a fan for white noise...can’t fall asleep without it. It muffles the traffic noise so it doesn’t draw my attention and wake up my brain. It also feels like an audible cushion of sorts. The room feels ‘empty’ without the fan on.”

A Warm Cup of Tea

Many readers find that a cup of warm chamomile, green or “sweet dreams” tea helps promote a good night’s sleep.

Aromatherapy

Try soothing scents like lavender, jasmine, and chamomile. One parent shares what is helpful for her daughter.

"...a shower before bed using some of the sleep specific bath gels and aromatherapy. She also has a little bean bag that is filled with herbs such as lavender and chamomile which can be heated in the microwave and put on her pillow while she sleeps.”

Melatonin

This naturally occurring hormone is secreted by a part of the brain called the pineal gland. Melatonin helps us regulate our sleep. When it is dark the production of melatonin is stimulated and when it is light the production is suppressed. Many readers have found melatonin supplements to be helpful for inducing sleep.

Another reader shares that L-Theanine combined with melatonin does the trick. L-Theanine is an amino acid commonly found in green tea leaves. It is thought to reduce stress and promote relaxation.

As with any supplements, it is important that you consult with your doctor before taking them as they may interact or interfere with other drugs you are taking.

Eat a Light Healthy Snack

Too much food before bedtime can make sleep more difficult, but many readers find that a light snack is helpful. One parent’s suggestion -- toast with shaved turkey breast and cheese microwaved for 45 seconds, then throw in a glass of milk.

Get the Computer Out of the Bedroom

The problem with the computer is that it's easy to get absorbed in it and fall into hyperfocus mode. Two or three hours of sleep time can easily pass by without you even realizing it! That is precious sleep time quickly lost. Removing the temptation of the computer from the sleep environment helps.

“I had to rearrange my room and take the computer out of there and my TV and any distractions and make it just for sleeping and maybe one other thing!”

Television/Radio: Mixed Responses

Readers had differing views on the television and radio. Some find it helpful for sleep, while others find it hinders sleep. Below are a few responses.

“I am 45 and have experienced sleeping problems since childhood. I Exercise during the day and work hard. But just a TV is able to stop my radial thoughts. Then, I sleep...”

“I truly have an urge to put on the tv to fall asleep to, but ​the problem is I then want to stay up and watch it or flip channels! The thing that works best for me to GO to sleep is to read…”

Avoid Alcohol

Many people think of alcohol as a sedative. Indeed, it does appear to help induce sleep. The problem is though you may get to sleep a little quicker, your night time sleep will be less restful and more disruptive. The use of alcohol before bedtime will increase the number of times you wake throughout the night, so you won’t get the quality sleep you need. In addition, alcohol is a diuretic, so you’ll also be up several times during the night to urinate. One reader shares her experience with alcohol below.

“I found out that I was self-medicating with it to calm down and sleep, but it actually worked the opposite way by not letting me reach some type of stage of sleep, you know the deep sleep level.”

Caffeine: Mixed Responses

Caffeine is a diuretic, so you may be making several bathroom trips during the night if you’ve consumed caffeine close to bedtime. Caffeine is also a stimulant. One reader noted that a little caffeine helped ease the restlessness she feels at nighttime, stimulating her just enough to go to sleep. Most readers, however, find it helpful to avoid caffeine at least 4 hours before bedtime.

“Sleep (or lack thereof) has always been an issue, getting to sleep in the first place, staying asleep, etc. Over the last 6 months or so, I’ve made two simple lifestyle changes that have virtually eliminated insomnia. I gave up caffeine (tea and Coke were my weaknesses!) and made a commitment to bless my body with at least 45 minutes of exercise every day. When I do slip up and drink caffeine, it totally wrecks my sleep. Had a glass of Coke at a friend's house recently -- I was up all night! Not cool.”

Exercise

Lots of readers find that exercise not only promotes good health, and overall good feelings, it also promotes good sleep. Vigorous exercise right before bed isn’t recommended, but exercise during the day will make it easier to get to sleep and stay asleep at night. Be sure to include lots of physical outdoor play for your ADD/ADHD children.

Shelve Problems That Need Solving for Later

This is a big issue for many readers.

Once your head hits the pillow, problems of the day start racing through your mind making sleep impossible. Here is a tip from one reader:

“I still have days I have a full mind and I have not solved some problem or I am wrapped around the axle because something made me mad and I find myself in that negative cycle of crud! I am learning to analyze these things and realize that maybe I cannot solve them right away and I am learning to put them on a shelf for a later time...I am also learning this thing of visualizing a filter at my office door to leave work issues at work and not dwell and obsess about them at night!”

If thoughts continue to get in the way at night, try keeping a pen and pad of paper by your bedside. Jot down your thoughts and commit to returning to them at a more appropriate time during the day.

Think Positive Thoughts

Though it may take some time to readjust your thinking, try to think “happy thoughts” at bedtime. Set aside those worries and any negative thoughts and get into the habit of positive thinking at bedtime. One parent helps her child think of his favorite place -- the beach in Florida. To help visualize and reinforce these positive thoughts, she even bought her son a special clock that plays ocean wave sounds. These soothing and happy sounds have helped promote happy thoughts and good feelings around bedtime and sleep has been easier for her son.

Don’t Start New Projects at Bedtime

This goes along with maintaining a bedtime routine and a set bedtime. As you approach the evening, it is not the time to begin a project you know will result in hyperfocusing and losing track of time.

One reader shares:

“Another thing, or skill, I am trying to perfect, is not to start any projects or engaging things within the time I should be winding down for bed, like don't get into a distracting or hyper-focus type of thing. I used to get on the computer or into a video game or start an intense drawing to close to a reasonable bedtime and look up at the clock and realize I had just blown 3 or 4 hours of sleep time! Yikes!”

A wonderful suggestion this reader shares to help avoid a hyperfocus situation -- set a timer to prompt yourself to stop for the night.

Meditation

Several readers shared that meditation and deep breathing exercises have helped ease their mind and body into better sleep.

Check Your Iron Levels

“My 12-year-old son with ADHD was found to be iron deficient. He has been on replacement therapy, and it really has seemed to help the sleep problem. I did not realize prior to this that being iron deficient would inhibit sleep!”

Some people with iron deficiency anemia do experience restless leg syndrome (RLS) which can cause difficulty falling and staying asleep.

Adjust Medication Times

Several readers found that a simple addition or adjustment in their medication dosage and time helps make sleep a little easier.

Give Up Those Cigarettes

We all know smoking can be harmful to your lungs, but nicotine may also make it more difficult to fall asleep and can result in disrupted sleep during the night.

Avoid Sugary Foods and Drinks Late in the Day

That extra initial energy boost from sugars can make it more difficult to fall asleep. Limit or avoid sugary foods and drinks later in the day.

A Transitional Object

A soft, plush blanket or special, safe toy can help babies and toddlers transition to bedtime. Many parents shared that a simple transitional object continues to be helpful for their older children, as well.

Sleep Environment

A good pillow always helps! Make sure your sleep environment is comfortable and conducive to sleep – pillows and mattress are comfortable, lights are dim, temperature is cool (not cold or too warm), etc.

Be Patient with Changes

Sleep issues make take some time to resolve, so be patient. Stick with your routine and slowly but surely you will begin to experience the benefits of a good night’s sleep.

Talk with Your Doctor If Sleep Problems Continue

Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy, or other medical issues may be causing the sleep problems. If you continue to have concerns about sleep, consult with your doctor.

Source

Daniel J. Buysse, MD. CAN'T SLEEP? LEARN ABOUT INSOMNIA. National Sleep Foundation. 2007

National Sleep Foundation. MELATONIN: THE BASIC FACTS. 2007

National Sleep Foundation. TIPS THAT MAY HELP SLEEP. 2007

Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation. Restless Leg Syndrome Fact Sheet. Rochester, MN. 2007

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