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We’re talking about ADHD and sleep, but let’s start with a story: I majored in English at Penn State. You want to catch my attention? Talk about Shakespeare.
In Macbeth, one of the best lines is when Macbeth plagued by a guilty conscience wakes up in the middle of the night and says:
Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep’, the innocent sleep,
Much to the chagrin of his less than savory life partner, Macbeth is having second thoughts about his actions.
Anyway, I brought that up to say that there are some obstacles getting in the way of our sleep, folks. Our sleep is being murdered night after night and we are suffering the consequences. Let’s explore a few of the reasons.
External obstacles to slumber
- Overcommitting– This one is easy; if you’re trying to cram five pounds of stuff into a five-pound bag you will be overwhelmed and it will overflow. STOP. Otherwise, continue trying to stay up all night to get it done
- Smartphones– Ah, the smartphone. This device is my joy and my pain wrapped into one. My time saver and time waster. The only device that can remind me in a million ways that I’m wasting my time yet I can ignore it and risk it all for five more minutes of Candy Crush. What can we do? Install a meditation app. Spend some time immersed in a good audiobook to wind down. Use your phone to track how much sleep you’re actually getting. I know we hear a lot about how awful technology is for our sleep, but there are bright spots too.
- Social Media – The question is, why go to sleep when you can stay up all night talking about the weather in Bangladesh with someone FROM Bangladesh? ADHD and sleep? Who needs sleep? Seriously though. People with ADHD do, and social media is keeping us from getting it. PS – you can follow our FB page while you’re being distracted by social anyway!
- Stimulant Medications – You will NEVER hear me complain about stimulant medication because I am a HUGE believer in medication for ADHD. I don’t think it is a good thing or a bad thing, I think it is an additional tool that you are allowed to use or not use based on the needs you have. Regardless, there are side effects to anything, and one of the side effects for some of us is that it interrupts our sleep, especially if we (and I’m always so guilty of this) forget to take our medications until later in the day.
Internal Obstacles to Slumber
- Time Blindness– ADHD and sleep is complicated enough, but many of the people who have ADHD experience time blindness- meaning an hour can feel like five minutes and five minutes can feel like an hour. What so worse, your “one more episode” on Netflix and one more message before you turn off social media and one more picture on Instagram can quickly snowball into 3:00 AM. BE CAREFUL.
- Unwillingness to acknowledge the NEED for sleep– This is my number one issue with sleep. For starters, I’m not a morning person. I’m also an entrepreneur, which means I ALWAYS have something to do. Also, we are socially conditioned to neglect sleep in favor of work. I am an impulsive woman. That means I like to take risks. That means I like to see how far I can push it. My brain is a liar! ADHD and sleep are vital – lack of sleep means lack of concentration and focus. You WILL regret it in the morning.
- Anxiety – Many of us with ADHD also struggle with anxiety as comorbidity. It becomes mighty difficult to sleep when all you can think about is some awkward stuff you did in the third grade. Anxiety keeps us stuck agonizing over past issues or future problems. Trust me, this will keep you way too busy to sleep.
There’s Hope – and Technology
People, if there was a lullaby for ADHD and sleep it would probably begin “will I EVER lay me down to sleep?” ( Also worth noting: a lack of stimulation can make it difficult to fall asleep. Consider a sleep machine to counteract those symptoms. The sound of the whistling wind, or rain, or SOMETHING other than complete silence can be really enjoyable – unless, of course, it proves distracting.
There is also something to be said for the practice of going to sleep at the same time every night. This is a difficult thing for us to do because hello- many of us are time blind and before we know it hours have passed and we are up WAY later than we intended. The easy solution to this problem? Set an alarm to remind you to go to sleep. Give yourself however much time it takes you to prepare to sleep and then set your three alarms: a 15-minute warning that it is almost shut down time, an alarm to get you started preparing for bedtime (shower, brush your teeth, read to unwind, whatever your routine is), and an alarm to tell you to stop all the prep and go to sleep. Trust me, this is going to be one of the biggest helpers to you in the whole sleep challenge. Losing track of time has lost me more sleep over the years than anything else.
This isn’t an easy task to conquer, but I want you to keep trying to get some sleep. All of the stimulants in the world will not help you if you aren’t well rested. Any technique that I give you will be difficult to implement if you haven’t got the energy to put it into place. Getting some shut-eye is the foundation of a good health routine. You can do it, I believe in you.
What helps you sleep at night?
Until next time,