I was part of the Adult ADD summit hosted by Dr. George Sachs, where we talk about how people with ADD struggle with sleep and how we can help them sleep better and thus improve their adult ADD symptoms.
Sleep and ADD have been connected for a long time. The tricky thing is that one bounces off the other. ADD makes it difficult to sleep and not getting enough sleep can make ADD even more difficult to handle.
Let’s look at how you can prepare yourself the best way possible and also if those things don't work what the next step might be that are not necessarily the first things you think of when you think of sleep issues.
Don’t leave sleep to the last minute
It's not just people that struggle with ADD, but something I really see a lot of the time is that people leave sleep till the last minute. Your day is so full and then comes nighttime and suddenly everything has to function in terms of sleep. Your mind has to be super quiet. Everything needs to shut down and that can be very difficult. Sleep is not an on and off switch. For some people it is. If they are super calm and super chill, they can sleep everywhere; but for most people, it is a process.
Here’s how you can do that: Focus on your mind and nutrition.
Whenever I talk to people about sleep, they always mention this famous monkey mind. That’s when suddenly all these things pop up in your head and you have this mind carousel going off. You remember all the to-do lists and all the events that occurred during the day that you managed to compartmentalize.
Try to be aware of what is triggering you during the day or what you are trying to compartmentalize. Whenever you have the urge to take a feeling, an idea, or a notion and put it into a drawer for later, be aware that the whole chest of drawers is going to be flung at you come nighttime.
Try to be aware of those triggers/ ideas
Having a notebook with you, where you can write it down, helps a lot. Simply taking notes can give you some peace. It wont stress you as much. By doing that you are avoiding that bottleneck situation of having everything crash down on you at nighttime.
Keep a gratitude journal, because anything that's positive releases serotonin in your brain and helps to convert into melatonin and can help with sleep. Do keep your gratitude journal separate from your worry journal.
People who struggle with sleep often have imbalanced blood sugar levels. They tend to go from sugar spike to sugar spike. A nighttime sugar spike is not going to be helpful. The reason for a sugar spike is that you ate something that is releasing sugar quickly into your bloodstream. You will need insulin to bring it back down and a partner of insulin is cortisol. Cortisol, however, is a stress hormone that is detrimental to sleep. It interferes with your melatonin and it makes you feel wired. Cortisol is supposed to be lower at nighttime. If you eat something that is provoking a sugar spike, it brings with it a rise in insulin and cortisol.
Most people start the day with an unhealthy breakfast. We might think that traditional cereal or pastries plus coffee is good, but it really gives us that sugar push (first spike). By 10 AM we crash and need a new spike. That might be a little brownie and another coffee. By noon we crash again. We have lunch and continue in this kind of spiky pattern throughout the day. Our body gets used to it and sometimes that spiky pattern continues until nighttime. That is why you suddenly have a rise without even knowing why.
Be mindful of eating foods that are releasing sugars slowly. For example, brown rice vs white rice, or if you need to have carbs brown carbs vs white carbs. If you have refined carbs then make sure that you combine them with a protein to have sugar be released slower.
Track what you eat, because often we are not aware of how much and when we eat.
What can an adult with ADD do once they've prepped for sleep, written in their gratitude journal, and yet still struggle to get to sleep?
Let’s first look at circadian rhythm
. A circadian rhythm is basically an internal clock that tells us when it's getting late, when it's time to get up and when to be active, and when it's time to go to sleep. It regulates certain hormones that give us sleep pressure and it also regulates our hunger.
The circadian rhythm is pretty much the same for most people but if you're someone who has a delayed circadian rhythm it might mean that your process is naturally triggered two to three hours later than for most people. Most of us get tired a lot earlier than we think. It’s typically around 9 – 10 PM, but because we are too busy, we tend to skip it. Now, if you have a delayed circadian rhythm, that will occur a few hours later.
Ideally, they would go to bed between midnight and 3 AM, and they would sleep in a lot longer. Sometimes, when I talk to entrepreneurs and if they aren’t bound to a social schedule, meaning that they don't necessarily need to get up to take kids to school, then I tell them to try to live according to their circadian rhythm. When they do it, it’s miraculous because their zones of geniuses are when they are naturally awake. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible with social hours, but if you're not constricted to that, then I would encourage you to be a bit antisocial but being healthier by listening to your body.
One of the biggest mistakes I find that people do when they are already in bed is that when they notice that they can’t sleep, they stay in bed and that can backfire: because it is quiet!
You'll start to get super annoyed, which is not a good feeling to have. You start to resent sleep because it’s supposed to be this easy thing and it's not coming.
It creates all kinds of frustration and the truth is when
sleep has gone, it's gone.
I suggest you get up again and make sure that you’re not hitting your eyes with bright light. Keep lights low and try to have light bulbs in your bedroom that are more on the orange-side rather than blue or LED lights. Those lights are prone to interfere with the melatonin build up. Try Blue light blocking glasses as well.
Watching Netflix is not necessarily the best way to get your sleep back either. I would really argue to do something that keeps you busy.
You could fold laundry
Write in your journals
Read a book that is interesting, but maybe not the latest romance love novel
You can also listen to sleep stories via the app Calm
You can do deep breathing exercises
You will know when your sleep is back. Imagine it as a real person who tips you on the shoulder and you will start to feel your eyelids getting heavy. You will start yawning and then you can have a second try.