How to help ADHD-related sleep issues in adults

by Shea Brogren, MOT, OTR/L January 10, 2018

How to help ADHD-related sleep issues in adults

In the United states, somewhere between 1% and 4% of adults have a diagnosis of ADHD. ADHD symptoms include difficulty with attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. In adulthood, it is typical for hyperactivity to decrease, however problems with attention, disorganization, and impulsivity often remain. Adults with ADHD often have difficulty fully completing tasks or have trouble focusing at work. Another major issue for those with ADHD is sleep disruption. This typically presents as feeling sluggish during the day. Many people with ADHD also find they have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. What can be done to help ease ADHD-related sleep problems in adults?

Developing a consistent sleep routine

One of the most effective ways to reduce sleep disruptions is to develop a consistent sleeping routine. This involves going to sleep and waking up around the same time each day. Typically, a 30-minute window of time is most helpful. For example, ensuring you are in bed between 10:30 and 11 PM each night. Developing a routine will help trigger the brain to release the chemicals needed to fall asleep at the same time each day. Adults with ADHD should also limit their caffeine intake during the day to ensure this is not affecting sleep routines.

Reducing screen time before bed

In today’s world, most people spend much of their time on their cell phones or watching television. While these may be enjoyable activities, they can actually have a negative impact on one’s sleep cycle. The light emitted from devices such as phones and TVs can actually signal our brain to stay awake. In addition, using a device or watching tv can stimulate the thinking centers of the brain, which is the opposite of what is needed right before bed. To ensure the best sleep, it is recommended to stop using electronic devices 1-2 hours before bed.

Below are some ways to encourage a good night's sleep!

Exercise

 

Exercise is a great way to expend energy during the day, which in turn can often decrease feelings of restlessness at night. Cardio activities such as running, biking, aerobics, and even walking are the best options. However, any form of exercise will be helpful. It is important that adults with ADHD not exercise too close to their bedtime, as this can actually increase feelings of restlessness or hyperactivity. It is recommended to complete all exercise activities at least 3 hours before you go to bed.

Finding and using calming strategies

In today’s market, there are several tools available that target sleep. The usefulness of these tools will be unique to each individual and will likely take some exploration. Regardless, it is most helpful to engage in an activity that is calming or soothing close to bedtime. Again, this helps signal the brain that it is time to prepare for sleep. Some adults find a warm bath and reading to be relaxing. Others might find a certain scent to be soothing, such as lavender. A tool that can be used to facilitate sleep all night is a weighted blanket. A weighted blanket provides extra input to the body, which triggers the release of calming chemicals in the body. These chemicals are the same ones that help people fall asleep and stay asleep. Check out Harkla’s adult weighted blankethere. For more info on how weighted blankets can help those with ADHD, click here.

Conclusion

Adults with ADHD often struggle with sleep-related issues. There are several simple, routine-based strategies that can assist with these issues. It is our hope that this article highlighted some solutions that you can start implementing today to ensure a more healthy and restful sleep. Let us know if you've used other strategies that hav been successful!

References

Kolar, D., Keller, A., Golfinopolous, M., Cumyn, L., Syer, C., & Hechtman, L. (2008). Treatment of adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.Neuropsychiatric Disorder Treatment, 4(2), 389-403.




Shea Brogren, MOT, OTR/L
Shea Brogren, MOT, OTR/L

Shea Brogren, MOT, OTR/L, is an occupational therapist with over three years of experience in pediatrics and child/adolescent mental health and has also worked as an adjunct lecturer at the University of North Dakota. Shea has a special interest in program development and developed and implemented occupational therapy programming at a residential treatment center for children. She now practices in an outpatient setting. Her primary area of interest involves working with children who have experienced developmental trauma. Shea has advanced training in: SMART treatment (Sensorimotor Arousal Regulation Treatment), the Zones of Regulation, using sensory-based interventions to address trauma, infant mental health, attachment, and arousal regulation related to trauma disorders.


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