Are you the type who sits down at your computer at 10:30 p.m. to start surfing the web? Or decides to engage in a massive spring cleaning right before bed? Or claims to be a night owl who is just getting started when the sun goes down? These are all common traits for adults with ADD/ADHD.
Getting a good night’s sleep aids proper functioning in all adults, but especially in adults with ADD/ADHD. Recent science has evolved our understanding of sleep, putting the goal at approximately eight hours per night, but also acknowledging that any amount of uninterrupted sleep helps, such as a nap or waking up in the night but going back to sleep. In each sleep cycle, a person needs to go through all five stages of sleep to feel rested. However, when people sleep for only a few hours or constantly wake up, they miss out on that last stage of sleep. (Check out Health and Ambition’s article on sleep hygiene to understand the importance of REM sleep for mental health).
In his 2012 New York Times article, David Randall explains that “a number of recent studies suggest that any deep sleep—whether in an eight-hour block or a thirty-minute nap—primes our brains to function at a higher level, letting us come up with better ideas, find solutions to puzzles more quickly, identify patterns faster and recall information more accurately. In a NASA-financed study, for example, a team of researchers led by David F. Dinges, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, found that letting subjects nap for as little as 24 minutes improved their cognitive performance.”
Despite these benefits, many adults with ADD/ADHD have not had a good night’s sleep in decades. One of the challenges standing in the way of proper sleep hygiene is that many adults with ADD/ADHD actually enjoy the energy boost they receive in the evenings before bed. Some claim that they get their best work done at this time of day. The downside, of course, is that they don’t make it to bed until sometime between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. When the rest of the world wakes up at 7 a.m., they find themselves forced to function on just a few hours of restless sleep.
Poor sleep hygiene harms your relationship with your husband in other ways as well. Operating on different sleep cycles limits the quality of physical contact that a couple needs to maintain intimacy. In addition, since your husband is perpetually “off schedule,” he often lacks the energy to play with his children during the day.
Sleep Hygiene for Adult ADD
One trick to better sleep is to start thinking about going to bed earlier. Just thinking about this will help you realize that the time for going to bed is a choice. You need to recognize that your brain cannot be relied upon to tell you when your body is tired, because it is too busy processing information. To counteract this, you need to train yourself to get better at looking at the clock and begin the “wind-down” time at the right time, regardless of how tired you feel.
If your winding-down process takes three hours, then you need to start that process at 9 p.m. with no excuses!
One word of caution: Research shows that close proximity to a bright computer screen or cell phone screen activates the pineal gland, which controls the amount of Melatonin in your body. Melatonin influences biological rhythms, including sleep. Staring at a computer or cell phone for hours before bed fools the brain into thinking it is time to wake up, as if the sun is shining brightly, and you should be ready for the day. Problem is, in the real world, it is bedtime.
If you can successfully limit distractions after 9:30 p.m., particularly cell phones and computer usage, you’re halfway there. This step may take some practice, but in time new habits can form. So what should you do instead of surfing the Drudge Report or Facebooking friends at 10:30? How about a hot shower. Hot showers can do wonders to reduce the tension that builds up throughout the day and minimize the hyperactivity at night.
Being mentally prepared for bed starting at 9:30 p.m., reducing distractions (particularly computers and cell phones), taking a hot shower, and cuddling with a loved one can do one wonders to realign your sleep cycle.
Tags: Sleep Hygiene for Adult ADD