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How to Fall Asleep with a Racing ADHD Mind

While ADHD is often associated with challenges in focus and organization, what's less known is its significant impact on sleep patterns.

 

ADHD affects approximately 5% of children and persists into adulthood for many. And of those, between 25% to 50% of individuals with ADHD face sleep problems, ranging from insomnia to more complex sleep disorders. This is why recognizing and addressing these sleep issues can significantly enhance the quality of life for those with ADHD and their loved ones.

 

For years, I battled with sleep problems and insomnia, which was mainly fueled by my racing mind.



So, I made conscious lifestyle changes, reducing my caffeine intake during the day to reduce the restless thoughts in the evening and night. I also started to incorporate "brain dumps" before bed—a way to offload the day's worries. I also started creating a wind-down routine with calming music, audiobooks or reading, to pretty much signal to my body that it was time to unwind.


Why do so many of us struggle with sleep?

Lack of a Regular Schedule: The hallmark symptoms of ADHD, such as distractibility and impulsivity, can wreak havoc on maintaining a consistent sleep schedule. The unpredictability inherent in ADHD makes it challenging to unwind and prepare for sleep.

 

Co-Occurring Sleep Disorders: It's not uncommon for individuals with ADHD to grapple with co-existing sleep disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless legs syndrome (RLS). These sleep disturbances further complicate the quest for restorative sleep.

 

Co-Occurring Disorders: Beyond sleep disorders, ADHD often coexists with other mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, or substance use disorders, all of which can sabotage sleep quality.

 

Medications: While stimulant medications are commonly prescribed to manage ADHD symptoms, they can paradoxically disrupt sleep, especially when coupled with other stimulants like caffeine.

 

Things that could be disrupting your sleep

Identifying and avoiding substances and activities that interfere with sleep can be very important for those struggling with sleep.

 

Here are some common sleep disruptors:

 

Alcohol: Despite its sedative effects, alcohol disrupts sleep, leading to fragmented and less restorative sleep.

 

Sugar: Limit consumption of sugary foods and beverages, particularly close to bedtime, to prevent energy spikes that delay sleep onset.

 

Caffeine: Minimize or eliminate caffeine intake, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime, to prevent its stimulatory effects on sleep. I try to stay away from caffeine from 3pm on, as caffeine can stay in your blood stream for up to 6 hours.

 

Nicotine: Smoking and nicotine consumption can disrupt sleep patterns.

 

Hyperfocus Activities: Try to stay away from engaging in stimulating activities close to bedtime, as they can often make it very challenging to transition to sleep.

 

What can help you with your sleep?

To have a smoother transition to sleep and especially staying asleep you can try out some or all of these strategies:

 

Music & Audiobooks: Listen to soothing music or an audiobook can help you unwind and distract your mind from racing thoughts.


 

Optimize Your Sleep Environment: Ensure your sleep environment is helpful to rest, with comfortable bedding, dim lighting, and a tranquil ambiance.

 

Reading: Reading can help to relax your mind, but steer clear of gripping page-turners that may make it even more challenging to fall asleep.

 

Journaling & Braindumping: Write down any of your lingering worries or thoughts in a notebook or journal to declutter your mind.

 

White Noise: Mask disruptive sounds with gentle white noise, like a fan or nature sounds, to create a serene auditory backdrop for sleep.

 

Incorporate Healthy Habits for Lasting Change

 

In addition to these bedtime rituals, cultivating healthy habits can improve sleep quality over the long term.


Consider integrating these practices into your daily routine.

Consistent Bedtime Routine: Establish a regular sleep-wake schedule to synchronize your body's internal clock and promote better sleep quality.

 

Regular Exercise: Engage in physical activity to promote overall well-being and improve sleep quality, avoiding vigorous exercise close to bedtime.


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