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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Wrentmore

Sleep is always number one. ADHD Sleep Hygiene.

Along with the rest of our metabolic needs, like nutrition, hydration, exercise, and consistency with medication, we talk about ADHD sleep hygiene a lot in ADHD coaching.

If I were to pick the number one thing we can do to help manage ADHD, it would be to get sleep dialed in. At least seven, hopefully uninterrupted, hours of sleep a night on most nights.

Here are some thoughts on dialing sleep.



Inventory. Take some time and inventory the sleep environment; we are not always aware of things that are not working for us after we have learned to tolerate them and ignore the discomfort.

  • Is what you sleep on and sleep under comfortable? Do you wake up with sore hips, back, neck, or shoulders?

  • Is the room you sleep in a comfortable temperature? Sleeping too warm can be disruptive. Sleeping in cooler temperatures helps our body regulate temperature during sleep. What temperature do you sleep best in?

  • If you sleep with a partner, does something they do interrupt your sleep?

  • Are there sounds that keep you awake or wake you up during the night?

  • How often do you wake up to relieve yourself? If it is too frequent, consider limiting fluids an hour or two before bedtime.

  • Is there a light in the room or outside that interrupts your sleep?

  • Are there other things disturbing your sleep?



What is the ritual? What are the things we do before we get into bed? These are the same three or five things we do around the same time every night and in the same order. They allow us to wrap up the day, settle us down, and lead us toward and into bed. An example might look like:

  • At 10pm, all screens are off. We can read a book, but it has to be an actual printed book.

  • Around 10:30, we get things together for tomorrow, review our schedule, and set intentions for the day. Good time to make sure all the pets are in and have water for the night.

  • At 11, things get serious, and we wash up in the bathroom to get ready for bed.

  • At 11:30, we are in bed.

Some people do well with a bedtime snack. Others prefer to sleep on an empty stomach. Does eating a light bedtime snack help you sleep better?


Practicing a sleep routine, the same sequence of things, around the same time each night teaches the body that sleep time follows. The brain figures it out and follows the steps toward sleep with us.


What does your sleep routine look like?



External queues. What reminds you to wrap things up at night? For many of us with ADHD, night-time is the right time. Those quiet evening hours are delicious. We can easily go heads-down for hours on projects, gaming, noodling around on the interwebs, or (please no) doom scrolling. And then it's 3am, and we won't get those 7 to 8 hours of sleep before being up at 6 for work. Oops, I did it again.


While at work or school, there are usually reminders and queues to help us transition from one activity to another. Unfortunately, we don't always have that at home, especially in the evening when things are quiet. It can help to have an external queue to remind us. Some examples:

  • Some of us use lights on timers that either dim or change color at a specific time to remind us that it is time to wrap the day up.

  • Others prefer a reminder from their phone. But that can have its own distraction pitfalls.

  • Some prefer to set an alarm clock in the room where their routine begins. This is helpful if we are prone to ignore the reminder and stay seated, doing whatever we do at night. Until "suddenly 3am."

  • For late-night gamers, having a light that turns _on_ can be helpful in that dark room as a signal that it is time to wrap things up and get to bed.

So what things help you consistently start your night-time routine?


Don't blow it up on the weekend...

The late weekend sleep-in and the resulting late Sunday night make an early workday Monday difficult. Sometimes those days tumbleweed into increasingly more profound sleep disruption as the work week rolls toward the weekend, where it all starts over again.


Don't blow it up on the weekend. Stick to your routine. If you sleep late on the weekends, try to keep it short enough to not disrupt your bedtime.


Routine

Routine is a tremendous ally in our efforts to manage our ADHD. This is especially true with sleep. We can start building our night-time routine by looking at when we need to rise for whatever we do most days and calculating back 8 hours from then. So if the day starts at 6am, we need to be snugged in bed around 10pm.

If our schedule is variable, we might be tempted to sleep late when we don't have obligations to be anywhere. That is OK, as long as we don't blow it up and become a sad tumbleweed.


Practice

Sleep hygiene, routines, sleep rituals- call it what you will- take a little practice. The payoffs are worth the effort and commitment. We are not likely to turn 15 years of random sleep patterns around in a few nights. But as we develop an awareness of what we need, experiment with what works for us, and remove what does not, improvements start to add up. As we practice, we naturally develop a routine that works for us, and it becomes just what we do. You might even find yourself actually craving the start of your evening routine. "what!?" you say. I know! It kinda freaked me out also, in a "what is happening to me!?" kind of way.


Now, life will happen, and stuff will come up, throwing our routine all out of whack. We might even forget we _had_ a routine. That is expected. And it is OK. Sometimes the disturbance is worth it when good things like travel, vacations, or a late concert get in there and disrupt things.

It is important to come back to our practice without shame; we plan for and expect disruptions to happen, and we put some thought towards how we want to pick it back up; we look at how things are in the present moment, identify what is essential about our routine and needs, and return to practicing those things.

--


SO! There are some thoughts on sleep. I'd love to know your thoughts, also.


Hope this helps. Call me, and we can talk about it.


Be safe out there.


One more thing! OK, two things; if you listen to podcasts or audiobooks to fall asleep, but it instead sometimes keeps you alert. You might try slowing the playback speed to just above the point where they sound drunk, or it annoys you. For most narration, that is about .80 for me, .85 if they are slow speakers. The slower tempo and longer pauses help slow your own tempo down. Also! Use the sleep timer function. See how short you can set it to before you are asleep. OH! Three things! See what happens if you set the volume to almost but not quite too quiet. Shhhhhh, we're trying to sleep over here.









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1 Comment


Liv Hua
Liv Hua
May 12, 2023

Love that bit on practice and the listening on slow speed. Your reminder on the automation of the lights has made a big difference too. I use the app Slumber...it has actors reading books super slow and sleepy-like. And Yes! Thanks for reminding me that decades of random sleep patterns do not change with will. I don't see why any brain that can be considered fun/creativity/energy/intellect-incarnate would want to sleep when the day is just starting to get good... EVER ... at least I don't. 7 hours of sleep and regularlity are finally coming to being but that's after lots of coaching, experimentation and good data gathering for almost a year now. Thanks for this post.

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