Hello to all of my ADHD peeps and ADHD loved ones living with ADHD. In the last post I talked about the common problem of difficulty sleeping. We went over both the common causes of disrupted sleep as well as the problems that can arise from poor sleep. If you need to get caught up just click here.

Today I’m going to go over a variety of possible solutions to try to get your sleep back on track. On a quick side note, I do think it’s funny that the week that we start discussing sleep, Michel starts having a harder time sleeping. This past week he hasn’t been getting as good of quality of sleep, has woken up more throughout the night, and has felt more tired in the morning. So we’ve been adjusting our sleeping habits and have reimplemented some of these suggestions to get his sleep back on track. I hope you find some of these to be helpful and remember that oftentimes finding a good solution to any problem often requires trial and error, so if one thing doesn’t work just try the next!

First, I want to talk about good sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is about setting yourself up for successful sleep. It’s about building good habits that promote healthy sleep. Sleep hygiene starts with a good bedtime routine. There is so much you can do to create a good routine be it reading, meditating, journaling, or doing yoga. Consistency with creating a routine is key, finding a good pattern of relaxing activities to calm your brain and body help prepare you for bed. Part of having a good routine includes having a set bedtime, having a bedtime provides your body with a consistent pattern to follow, it knows that at 10:30 you read for half an hour and at 11:00 its bedtime. This consistency allows your body to help wind down and be ready for bed when you’re ready. An important thing to avoid in your bedtime routine is screen time. As mentioned in the previous post the blue light emitted from screens disrupts our circadian rhythms, to help prevent this and allow your body to naturally shut down its best to turn off all screens at least 30 minutes, if not 1 hour, before bed. Going along with that, having dimmable lights and setting them to a warm, low setting can also help trigger your circadian rhythm. The environment is an important part of sleep hygiene. Humans tend to sleep best at a cool temperature of around 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius), setting the room temperature, getting a fan, or having natural fiber sheets can all help create a cool environment. You want your bedroom to be a sleep sanctuary, it should be comfortable, cozy, and relaxing. Having a good mattress and pillows that you love to sink into at night is important. So is having fun, comfy bedding and decorations that are both calming but bring you joy. To end the topic of sleep hygiene let’s talk about activities to promote or avoid. Exercising and being active throughout the day allows your body to grow tired and also releases endorphins helping you relax, though you don’t want to exercise too late into the night, or it’ll wake you up. On the other hand, it’s best to stop drinking coffee (and other caffeine) around 6 hours before bed to allow it to fully get out of your system. Along with caffeine, if you’re having trouble sleeping it may be time to cut out the nightcap. Alcohol can disrupt both your ability to fall asleep and the quality of your sleep cycle. 

Now, onto specific recommendations on things you can do. Over the last two years I’ve found pretty much every sleep trick while navigating Michel’s ADHD sleep issues and working nightshifts. I hope that some of these are helpful for you!

  1. Weighted Blanket: Weighted blankets are a very well researched sleep aid. They are excellent for people who have a lot of anxiety before bed by providing a comforting, heavy stimulus that activates the autonomic nervous system putting your body into “rest” mode. The blankets help to decrease heart rate and respirations, which both help promote sleep. Weighted blankets are also very helpful for people with both ADHD and Autism by providing a calm but constant stimulus. By providing constant touch it helps decrease distraction by other sensory stimuli and can help prevent over-stimulation. 
  2. Sleep mask: Sleep masks, like weighted blankets, help decrease stimulation and also increase darkness levels which helps to increase both quality of sleep and rate of falling asleep. There’s a ton of options out there for sleep masks so you can find one that fits your needs, there’s silk ones, weighted ones, even ones with Bluetooth speakers. Michel and I both have a set with speakers that are very helpful and are one of the things that we’ve started using again this week. Michel has always done well with background noise playing and likes listening to movies, these masks are great because they allow him to listen to a show without bothering me because movies keep me awake. 
  3. Black out curtains: Similar to sleep masks black out curtains help to increase darkness in your room which helps with falling asleep and getting better sleep. While blackout curtains are really beneficial for people who sleep during the day, they can help at night as well by blocking out any light that may be sneaking in. 
  4. Natural fiber sheets: As I mentioned in the sleep hygiene section, humans sleep better in cooler temperatures. One way to help with this is choosing the right sheets. Polyester or other synthetic sheets tend to hold heat and create more friction which creates more heat. Whereas natural fiber sheets like 100% cotton or bamboo allow for air to flow freely and are naturally cooling. 
  5. White noise machine: White noise machines can help provide great relaxing background noise. There are machines specifically for creating white noise like waves, rain, forest sounds, etc. or other devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Nest have sleep sound functions. Similarly, sleep masks with Bluetooth functions can be connected to relaxing sleep sounds.  
  6. Sleep aid: If you still have trouble getting to sleep a sleep aid may be beneficial for you. Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally released by your body and is triggered by your circadian rhythm. Taking melatonin is a great natural way to help your body get to sleep.  There are a lot of melatonin options on the market to choose from including ones that have a delayed release part way through the night to help prevent waking up in the middle of the night. Our favorite melatonin aids are Natrol Sleep Immune Health and Olly Sleep. Other great sleep aids besides melatonin include valerian root, chamomile, and lavender. Valerian root has been used for centuries to help with calming and sleep promotion and is known to help promote restorative, deep sleep, and decrease the time it takes to fall asleep. Chamomile is commonly found in tea and is another great calming herb that helps to unwind and prepare for sleep. Like chamomile lavender can be in tea, but it can also be used several other ways. It works well as an olfactory stimulant through pillow sprays or essential oil diffusion (note: if using essential oils make sure to get high quality medical grade for safety), it can also be used in lotions. I have a lavender spray and a lotion that I rub on my feet before bed.
  7. Get up: It may sound counter intuitive, but if you can’t fall asleep or you wake up in the middle of the night wide awake, it’s better to get up for a bit than just lay there. (This is too an extent, if you struggle with chronic insomnia, laying down with your eyes closed still provides your body with rest if not sleep). Research shows that getting up, meditating for 15 minutes, and reading or journaling for 15-30 minutes helps to get your brain and body ready to sleep. It is important to keep your surroundings dark through limited/dimmed lights to promote those circadian rhythms. A great tool for reading at night is a kindle, I know this goes against my saying you need to shut off screens before bed, but if you put an e-reader into dark mode where there is white text on a black background it helps keep the dark environment we need. 

That’s a wrap on the best things to help improve your sleep! Michel and I personally utilize all of the things I’ve discussed above; we’ve developed a good bedtime routine, have a bedtime, and have good sleep hygiene. We also have all of the 7 listed tools. We don’t use all of them all the time but mix it up based off of our current needs. Right now, we just added on our weighted blanket and have started using the sleep masks and playing background noise through them. 

I challenge everyone to take a few moments to analyze their sleep hygiene, could it use some work? Even if you don’t have trouble sleeping creating good sleep hygiene is important for everyone’s mental and physical health. I hope that this information is beneficial to you and that you are able to create a consistently good sleep experience for yourself. Until next time!

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