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It seems that ADHD and sleep are a lot more interrelated than we had previously thought. Some of the latest research tells us that about 75% of patients with ADHD also have at least one sleep-related issue.
People with ADHD often suffer from insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness (or excessive activity in children), and circadian rhythm disorders. The circadian clock is our inner biological clock that regulates the sleep-wake time, body temperature, and hormone production, amongst other things – as such, it makes an important system in our body.
It is safe to say that poor sleep has a negative snowballing effect on our mental and physical health. Almost all mental illnesses are linked to sleep; improving sleep and circadian rhythm can mitigate many of the symptoms.
Take these steps to sleep well if you have ADHD
Medication is not the only solution to problems with ADHD: many patients were helped by simply “resetting” their circadian rhythm. You can do this by following rules, which make up good sleep hygiene.
- Expose yourself to bright daylight. Even a cloudy day offers more light than your lightbulbs at home. Early morning and afternoon light exposure helps your body get hints about the time so your inner clock can work properly. Alternatively, you can try light therapy. This requires installing special light boxes in your home and using them during the day; these boxes can be found easily online or in health related stores.
- Avoid artificial light at night. As the day advances, you should be surrounded by progressively less light. This means avoiding LED lights, screens, smartphones, TV and other sources of light. LED light “tricks” your brain that it is still daytime, so it postpones the production of our sleepy hormone, melatonin.
- Take melatonin supplements prior to bedtime. A majority of people with ADHD have low levels of melatonin. Melatonin supplements help reset your circadian clock and make you sleepy.
- Make a bedtime routine. People with ADHD get very active at night. Their body movements increase and their minds race. This means you need a relaxing bedtime routine to wind down, which may take an hour or more. For example, start with a calming tea and warm shower, read a book or practice deep breathing. It is important to inform your mind it is rest time, so stick to your routine every night!
- Keep the same sleep schedule. This is the absolute must for healthy restorative sleep. Make going to bed and waking up at about the same time every day a priority. Start with waking up at the desired time. Skip the snooze button and expose yourself to bright light to shake off sleep inertia (maybe have a cup of coffee to help you). As you probably need about 8 hours of sleep like most people, you’ll notice that you are becoming tired earlier at night than before: this means your body is adjusting to the new healthy schedule.
- Don’t lie in bed awake. If your normal sleep time is 2 am, for example, don’t force yourself to sleep at 12 pm. You’ll end up anxious and unable to sleep for a long time. Just make sure to wake up early and go to sleep once you are tired enough.
Another drug-free solution for ADHD was approved by the American Food and Drug Administration. It is a piece of technology called The Monarch external Trigeminal Nerve Stimulation (eTNS) System device. This device is attached to a patient’s forehead and is active throughout the night.
The Monarch works by electrically stimulating a nerve which leads to parts of the brain believed to take part in the ADHD. So far it has shown very promising results on patients older than 7.
It is quite promising to see there are several successful solutions to ADHD than simply prescribing medicine. The more science progresses, the more we know about the importance of sleep and how to use sleep hygiene to treat our problems.