How to sleep better with ADHD
Insomnia happens — and it’s more common than you might think. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in three adults sleep less than seven hours each night. That means 30% of the US population does not get enough sleep. And the number of adults without enough sleep is even higher among some groups. For example, about three-fourths of adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) say they have a hard time falling asleep, staying asleep at night, and may not get enough hours of rest.
While insomnia can be common, it’s not a condition you can ignore and live with long term. Everyone needs sleep — even busy entrepreneurs with a hard time winding down at night. Sleep is necessary for your health, mental wellness, and peak performance both physically and cognitively. Without sleep, you’re just not giving yourself the best chance at each day. But when sleep is tough to come by, what can you do?
Consider these sleep tips that can help you manage insomnia and get the sleep you need, even when you feel short on time and attention.
Make sleep a priority
Everyone does it — we’ve all put other activities ahead of sleep. Whether you’re staying up late to finish payroll or taking investors out for a night on the town, sleep can easily get pushed aside. While a late night here and there isn’t a deal-breaker, habitually skipping out on sleep is a problem. So to sleep better, you need to make sleep the priority.
One way to sleep better is to schedule your life around sleep rather than the other way around. To do this, you should plan out what time you need to wake up in the morning and then go to bed about eight hours before that. If you generally have trouble settling down and getting to sleep try to set a consistent bedtime. Or if you find yourself needing extra time to actually get out of bed in the morning, account for that time, too. To sleep better, try adjusting your sleep/wake cycle in 15-minute increments and see how it works for a few days, then try moving it again.
Entrepreneurs sometimes keep odd hours but that’s a mistake if you’re doing it erratically. Working an unusual shift isn’t really the issue, but if you do it inconsistently (such as pulling an all-nighter once a week), it can throw off your circadian rhythm. Plan to go to sleep and wake up around the same time each night and day so your brain and body are better able to predict when it’s time to get sleepy and when it’s time to become alert. A regular bedtime routine can help, too, as you walk through the same few steps before bed each night. A bedtime routine can be helpful even if it’s very simple, the key is making sure you do it consistently.
Bad sleep habits, interrupters & pitfalls
Ever had a coffee too late in the day and struggle to get to sleep at night? That’s just one way you can sabotage sleep. It’s a good idea to avoid caffeine after 3 p.m., and naps, while sometimes helpful, should be less than 30 minutes and never past 3 p.m. And although alcohol can help put you to sleep, it’s likely to cut down on the quality of your sleep, so it’s best to avoid a nightcap just before bed. Make sure you’re managing screen time, too. Take breaks from screen time throughout the day, and shut off those screens for at least one hour before bed so your brain can transition from working to resting at an appropriate time.
Entrepreneurship comes with stress, and so does everyday life. Chances are, you can’t escape it. But you can deal with stress in a healthy way. Turn to relaxation and coping mechanisms, such as regular yoga practice, meditation, visualization, breathing exercises, and a high level of self-care overall. Therapy can be helpful as well. And if you’re finding yourself lying awake at night with stressful thoughts, consider keeping a journal by your bed so you’re able to write down those thoughts, let them go, and deal with them the next day when you’re not trying to get rest.
Create a sleep nest
Ensure your bedroom is a healthy sleep environment. Some people can sleep anywhere, and if you’re tired enough, maybe it’s possible. But for day to day sleep, you need a comfortable bedroom where you can rest, relax, and restore. Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and comfortable, and take care to choose bedding and the right mattress for your needs. Even wall color matters — bright, bold colors may be too exciting, but neutrals and natural colors like a light blue can help support healthy sleep.
Talk to your doctor
It is well-known that some medications compound sleep troubles, particularly those for ADHD. If you suspect any of your medications are interfering with healthy sleep, discuss it with your doctor and see if you can look into alternatives that won’t have as much of an impact on your ability to get rest. And if you feel you have a chronic sleep disorder such as ongoing insomnia or even sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about how you can get treatment for the condition.
In order to sleep better with ADHD, you need to be intentional. And when you mix ADHD entrepreneurship with sleep, they don’t often play well together. In fact, sleep is especially difficult to manage while you’re also struggling to manage your own ADHD symptoms. But practicing healthy sleep habits and talking to your doctor about medications and treatment can help. Don’t neglect your sleep. Instead, work on ways to sleep better by giving yourself a clean slate and full energy and attention each day to take care of what needs to be done.
This article was written in collaboration with guest author Amy Highland, the sleep expert at SleepHelp.org.