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Don't Lose Sleep Over Sleep: How To Fall Asleep With ADHD

Read time 6 mins

How to fall asleep with ADHD

For those with ADHD, the struggle to wind down and achieve restful sleep can feel like a never-ending battle. An estimated 25 – 50% of ADHD’ers struggle with sleep issues, such as difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. Our racing minds can make it difficult to switch off, and the very things that help us focus during the day, such as screens and stimulating activities, can sabotage our sleep hygiene at night. Other factors contributing to sleep problems in people with ADHD may include neurobiological differences, medication side effects, and coexisting conditions such as depression and anxiety. Despite these challenges, getting enough sleep (8 hours ideally!) is extra important when you have ADHD.

So… why is sleep so important? 

During sleep, your brain undergoes a series of complex and essential processes that are crucial for your overall health and wellbeing. Here's a breakdown of what exactly goes on in your brain whilst you’re in slumberland… 

Brainwave activity: When you first fall asleep, your brain transitions through different stages of sleep, each characterised by distinct patterns of brainwave activity. As you progress through the stages from light sleep to deep sleep, your brainwave patterns slow down, and your body relaxes further. 

Memory consolidation: Sleep plays a critical role in memory consolidation – where your brain stabilises and strengthens memories formed throughout the day. During sleep, your brain reactivates and replays newly acquired information, helping to solidify it into long-term memory storage. 

Neuronal repair and growth: Sleep helps your brain to repair and rejuvenate itself. Throughout the night, your brain undergoes processes of cellular repair, growth, and maintenance, including the removal of waste products and the strengthening of synaptic connections between neurons. 

Hormone regulation: During sleep, hormones are secreted that regulate important bodily functions. For example, during deep sleep, your body produces a growth hormone, which is essential for tissue repair, muscle growth, and overall physical development. Additionally, sleep helps regulate hormones involved in appetite control, metabolism, and stress response. 

Emotional regulation: Good quality sleep is essential for emotional regulation and psychological well-being. During sleep, your brain processes and regulates emotions, helping to stabilise mood and reduce stress levels. Sleep deprivation can increase susceptibility to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, which often accompany ADHD. 

Brain detox: Recent research has suggested that sleep plays a crucial role in the brain's detoxification process. During sleep, cerebrospinal fluid helps to ‘cleanse’ your brain. This restorative process strengthens neural pathways, improves focus, and enhances emotional well-being – all essential elements for managing ADHD. 

Dreaming and creativity: Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which occurs periodically throughout the night, is associated with vivid dreaming and heightened brain activity. It’s believed to play a role in creativity, problem-solving, and emotional processing.  

Breaking the cycle: how a good night's sleep can help manage ADHD 

Here’s the good news: prioritising sleep hygiene can significantly improve your quality of life and help you manage ADHD symptoms. Here are some ways a good night's sleep can benefit you: 

  • improved focus and attention: Adequate sleep strengthens neural pathways, enhancing your ability to concentrate and complete tasks. 
  • enhanced emotional regulation: Sleep allows your brain to process emotions effectively, leading to better emotional control and reduced impulsivity. 
  • increased motivation and energy: Restful sleep boosts energy levels, making you feel more motivated to tackle daily challenges. 
  • reduced stress and anxiety: Sleep promotes relaxation and can alleviate symptoms of anxiety, a common co-occurring condition with ADHD. 

Mastering the art of sleep hygiene for your best night’s zzz’s ever 

Sleep hygiene refers to the practices and habits that contribute to good quality sleep. It encompasses both your sleep environment and your behaviour before bed, during the day, and even what you consume. Here are some top tips for good sleep hygiene:  

Lighten up your evenings: Ditch stimulating activities like screen time (phones, laptops, TVs) for at least an hour before bed. The blue light emitted can disrupt melatonin production, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles. Choose calming activities like reading, taking a warm bath, or some light stretching. 

embrace a calming environment: Create a sleep haven! Ensure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. Invest in blackout curtains, earplugs, and a comfortable mattress to minimise distractions or discomfort. 

Wind down with relaxation techniques: Activities like meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yin yoga can help quiet your mind and prepare your body for sleep. There are many guided meditation apps available to help you get started or check out our meditation course with Energy Rise. 

Harness the power of routine: Our brains love consistency. Establish a regular sleep schedule, aiming for 7 (or, even better, 8) hours of sleep per night. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends. This helps regulate your body's natural sleep-wake cycle. 

Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity can significantly improve sleep quality. However, avoid strenuous exercise close to bedtime as it can be stimulating. Aim for moderate exercise earlier in the day.  

Create a sleep-promoting diet: What you eat affects your sleep. Avoid heavy meals, caffeine, and sugary drinks close to bedtime. Choose a light, healthy dinner a few hours before sleep. 

Seek professional help: If you continue to struggle with sleep despite implementing these tips, consult a doctor. There might be underlying medical conditions affecting your sleep or medications that can help regulate your sleep cycle. 

Remember: Developing good sleep habits takes time and practice. Be patient with yourself, celebrate your successes, and don't be discouraged by setbacks. Prioritising sleep is a worthwhile investment in your overall wellbeing. 

In summary, addressing sleep disturbances is essential for ADHD’ers. It can help you manage your symptoms, support cognitive function, and improve your overall well-being. By prioritising sleep hygiene and implementing healthy sleep habits, you can enhance your sleep quality and mitigate the impact of sleep disturbances on your daily lives. Remember, good sleep isn't just a luxury—it's fundamental to good health and functioning, especially for those of us navigating the challenges of ADHD.  

Incorporating some of these strategies into your daily routine can make a huge impact on your quality of sleep, as well as helping to manage your ADHD symptoms. So, starting tonight, let's make commitment to ourselves - to prioritise rest and give our beautiful brains the rejuvenation they need to thrive.  

Your body and mind will thank you for it. 

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