Rise in ADHD cases in children: Mayo Clinic Radio
How to Sleep Better with Adult ADHD
Sleep problems are often a part of childhood and adult ADHD. Problems include restlessness, not being able to fall asleep, less “REM” sleep (which can impact long-term memory and coping abilities), and reduced sleep efficiency.If you have ADHD, you may also feel you are more energetic and productive in the evening, which can make it even harder to get to sleep in a timely manner and get enough rest.To get adequate sleep, you should focus on establishing a regular bedtime routine. You should also try to regulate your consumption of food and drink, take appropriate medications and create a relaxing bedroom environment.
Establishing a Good Sleep Routine
Stick to a set bedtime every night.You may feel you are most productive or energetic at night, but you are unlikely to improve your sleep quality if you don’t establish a regular bedtime. By going to sleep at the same time every night no matter what, you can gradually reset your circadian rhythm and get better rest.
Shut off electronic devices before bed.Watching movies, playing video games, scrolling through your phone, or working on your laptop before bed can all interfere with your sleep, and the reason is two-fold. Not only are these activities high-arousing, which can make it difficult for your brain to transition into sleep, the devices also emit a stimulating blue light, which suppresses the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Try to turn off all screens two hours before you go to sleep.
Do relaxing, routine activities before sleeping.Instead of stimulating activities, you should enjoy very mundane activities in the two hours prior to going to sleep. Try packing your lunch for the next day, folding your laundry, washing dishes, or listening to relaxing music.
Shower an hour before bedtime.Enjoy a shower or a bath an hour before your bedtime. Bathing will relax your muscles and make it easier to fall asleep.
- Try a relaxing bath with Epsom salts and/or lavender oil.
Exercise at least three hours prior to bedtime.You should certainly get exercise during the day, since it helps with ADHD symptoms such as restlessness. However, you should avoid getting exercise too close to your bedtime because it may make it hard to fall asleep.
- Try getting exercise first thing in the morning. Exercise can lead to a flood of endorphins and a release of adrenaline, which can give you energy to sustain you throughout the day. Working out too close to bedtime will not give your body adequate time to burn off or use the endorphins and adrenaline before attempting to sleep.
Practice mindfulness meditation.Engaging in meditation is a common stress-busting strategy, and reducing stress and anxiety before bed might make it easier for you to fall asleep. Find a quiet room in your house. Sit in a comfortable position. Place your hands on your thighs and relax your shoulders. Notice that you are breathing. Place your mind on your breath. If you notice your thoughts drifting, gently return your attention to the feeling of your breath moving into and out of your body. Continue to meditate for as long as you are able.
- Try meditation apps such as Headspace, Buddhify, Shambhala, or Calm.
- Take a meditation course or attend a meditation session with experienced practitioners at a meditation center. You can find a list of meditation centers at the Center for Mindfulness.
Use a sleep log or activity tracker to monitor your sleep.To get a better sense of when you actually go to bed and how long you actually sleep, you may want to use a sleep log. Keep a pen and sleep log journal beside your bed. Every night, write down the time you go to sleep. Record any time you wake up during the night and the total number of hours you sleep. Alternatively, consider an activity tracker like a FitBit or even an app on your smartphone to track your sleep and help you develop goals for better sleep.
- Use the data you collect to consult with your doctor about appropriate steps to improve your sleep.
- Popular sleep apps include Sleepbot, MotionX and Sleep Cycle. You can get them for iPhone and Android devices.
Using Medications, Food, and Drink to Improve Sleep
Make sure you eat at least four hours prior to bedtime.To avoid having your digestion wake you up in the middle of the night, you should avoid eating large meals before bedtime. Instead, make sure you eat dinner at least four hours prior to bedtime.
- Small snacks are fine but avoid any larger meals prior to bedtime.
Avoid caffeine.It is best to avoid caffeinated drinks such as coffee, cola or other carbonated soft drinks with caffeine. Instead, enjoy a glass of water or a cup of herbal tea.Remember that some foods, like chocolate, also contain caffeine.
- Avoid medications that have caffeine, such as pain relievers or migraine medication with added caffeine, since these kinds of pills will keep you awake.
- ADHD medications are commonly stimulants, and adding another stimulant (in the form of caffeine) can worsen sleep problems.
Enjoy a glass of warm milk before bedtime.A soothing glass of warm milk may put you in the mood for sleep. Milk has a natural sedative, also found in turkey, called tryptophan, which can help calm your mind.
- If you are lactose intolerant, you should still avoid milk.
Try a cup of chamomile tea.Chamomile is a very relaxing herbal tea without caffeine. Make a cup of chamomile tea without any added sugar and enjoy it before falling asleep.
- Chamomile tea is a natural treatment that has been used for insomnia, bowel trouble, migraines, and menstrual cramps.
Avoid alcohol consumption.You may think that drinking alcohol helps you sleep, since it can make you sleepy or even cause you to pass out. But, as your body metabolizes the alcohol, it is turned into sugar, which can disrupt sleep by increasing restlessness and agitation. It may also cause night sweats. In addition, drinking before bed may lead to multiple bathroom visits throughout the night, since alcohol is a diuretic.
Consider melatonin supplements.Melatonin is a hormone that contributes to your sleep-wake cycle. It is available over-the-counter in most drugstores and grocery or health food stores. Try taking 1 mg or less about 30 minutes before you want to go to bed.
Talk to your doctor.You should consult with your doctor about strategies to improve your sleep. Sleep problems have long been associated with ADHD and your doctor should be familiar with recent developments in effective medication as well as related sleep disorders like restless leg syndrome.Ask your doctor:
- “How could I change my routine to improve my sleep?”
- “Are there any sleep tests that might help you figure out what is going on with my sleep?”
- “Are there any medications that I could take to improve my sleep?”
Ask your doctor about methylphenidate or other medications for sleep.Methylphenidate medication has been found to improve sleep efficiency and restorative effects of sleep in patients with ADHD.However, sleep medications can also be addicting, so they should be used short-term, in conjunction with good sleep hygiene, and as a last resort. Ask your doctor whether methylphenidate or related medications might help you:
- “Do you think methylphenidate would work for me?”
- “What kind of dosage would help with my sleep problems?”
- “Are there any other medications we should consider?”
Adjusting your Bedroom Environment
Make the room dark, quiet and free of electronics.You should adjust your bedroom environment so that it gets nice and dark by, for instance, closing the curtains and turning off all the lights. You should also turn off computers, printers, stereo systems, video game consoles and any other electronic devices in the room. The buzz and light of electronic devices can disturb your ability to fall asleep.
Explore light therapy.Go outside in the morning to get some light in your eyes. In the evening, turn down your lights and close your blinds to block out any artificial light. Experiencing light during the morning and daytime and darkness at night will help to reset your natural rhythm and improve sleep.
- If you live in a place without much light in the winter months, you could try a light box. Use the light box for thirty minutes every morning.
Use a white noise machine.You may want to experiment with white noise, especially if there is a lot of background noise in your house or neighborhood. White noise can cover up bothersome noises that would otherwise wake you up during the night. Try leaving a fan or a humidifier running during the night. If this doesn’t work or is not appropriate for your situation, you could try a white noise machine specifically designed for sleep.
- White noise machines range in price from – 0.
- You can purchase white noise machines online or at home and beauty stores.
Try aromatherapy.Aromatherapy is an alternative medicine that uses scents from essential oils to treat various conditions. You breath in scents such as lavender, which impacts the system that regulates your mood and emotion. Put a few drops of an essential oil into a humidifier, your bath or an essential oil diffuser.
Video: Pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment of adults with ADHD
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