Oct 25

ADHD and Sleep

Does ADHD cause difficulty sleeping or does difficulty sleeping contribute to ADHD?

Dr. Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., an expert on sleep, says:

“Many adults being treated for ADHD have symptoms that are difficult to distinguish from the effects of poor quality and insufficient sleep. Difficulty concentrating, trouble completing tasks, problems with organization, and memory lapses are all common struggles for adults who’ve received an ADHD diagnosis. These are also some of the most common problems for adults with sleep problems.”

Vatsal Thakkar, M.D., clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center, points out that with children, it is even more difficult to separate the two diagnoses.

Dr. Thakkar also notes that the rise in ADHD diagnoses, during the 1990s and 2000s, occurred during the same time period when the use of laptops, tablets, and cell phones became widespread.

How do electronic devices interfere with getting a good night’s sleep?

At night, the body’s release of melatonin, the chemical needed for deep, restorative sleep, is limited by exposure to the light from electronic devices.

“Falling asleep isn’t like flicking a switch. We don’t put our heads on the pillow and fall off to sleep,” said Allison G. Harvey, a sleep specialist and professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley. “We take time to wind down at night. If we’ve got bright light conditions, we’re not giving ourselves a chance to get off to sleep and stay asleep.”

Here are 10 tips for getting a good night’s sleep:

1. Be sure and get some exercise during the day. Even a walk or two will help you sleep better.

2. Turn off all electronics at least an hour before sleep.

3. Keep lights low. If you want to read, choose something relaxing. You might also write your thoughts in a journal, or simply meditate for a few minutes, focusing on your breathing. Try doing a body scan. Beginning with the top of your head and ending with your toes, slowly move down your body, ‘feeling’ each part in your mind, and letting go of any tension where you notice it.

4. Get good blinds or curtains that will block the light from the street.
If light is still a problem, wear a sleep mask or just wrap a soft, cotton scarf over your eyes.

5. Use earplugs if noise is a problem.

6. Sleep in a slightly cool room. Studies have shown that for most people, the best temperature for sleep is around 60 to 68 degrees Farenheit.

7. Massage your feet with cream or oil and then put on soft, comfortable socks. This can help you sleep more deeply and stay asleep.

8. Drink some warm milk, soy milk, or herbal tea.

9. Keep a fan or white noise machine on. The sound will soothe you, block external noises, and give your mind a comforting ‘anchor,’ so that your thoughts will slow down.

10. If you are disturbed by too many thoughts, either as you are falling asleep or if you wake during the night, try this idea from author and teacher Eckhart Tolle:

Tell yourself that you want to take your attention away from your thinking. Instead, ask yourself if you can feel the energy inside your hands. Without touching anything, notice a slight tingling or awareness you may feel. Sense your arms and legs. This gives your body an anchor for presence. You will recognize, I have slowed down. When you’re in the body, you won’t be thinking as much.

“Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson