Like many “night people,” I have a hard time waking up in
the morning, but I have an even harder time falling asleep
at night. When I spoke to my doctor about this problem, she
offered me a very simple solution: take three hours to
“wind down” before bed. Don’t do anything stimulating in
the evening that will engage your brain. Relax, unwind, and
you’ll find yourself falling asleep much easier at night.
Sounds simple, right? Not when you have ADD!
People with ADD (also known as Attention
Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD) often find
themselves chronically tired during the day, but unable to
sleep at night. This can be true for adults and kids alike.
Some of us seem to have our own internal schedule – a body
and mind that want to sleep all day and be productive at
night. Unfortunately, most of the world doesn’t work this
way. Many people with ADD have a schedule to conform to, and
find themselves suffering with sleepless nights and sluggish
But if we have a possible solution – don’t do anything
stimulating three hours before bed – then why do we still
have a problem? I know that if I can manage to spend a
relaxing evening free from stimulation, I have a much easier
time both falling asleep and sleeping soundly. Unfortunately,
relaxing and winding down in the evening is
not as easy as it seems. Two main symptoms of ADD are
hyperactivity (which can be physical and/or mental) and
impulsiveness. These are two things that constantly tempt
the brain to get active. Additionally, once a task or
project is picked up, people with ADD have the potential to
“hyperfocus” on it and lose track of time. In order to avoid
this and wind down, I find it best to adhere to a routine. I
have to schedule my activities for the evening, and not
allow myself to get caught up in anything that I find
engaging, like emailing, talking on the phone, or even
picking up an interesting book.
When scheduling your evenings and developing a routine,
whether it is for yourself or your child, identify the one
or two things that usually provide the most stimulation and
eliminate them from the pre-bedtime hours. In my own
routine, I begin my wind down by shutting off my computer
right after dinner. This prevents me from getting caught up
in email, research, or any other number of interesting
things that the Internet has to offer.
The next thing to consider when planning your routine is to
schedule in “down time” for some serious relaxing. For me,
this can mean taking 15 minutes to meditate, going for a
walk with my dog, or even just sitting in my favorite chair
and breathing deeply. Whatever it is, I do it alone.
And finally, set up a “signal” that will let your body know
it’s time to start shutting down. The very last thing I do
at night is brush my teeth. This is my signal to my body and
mind that the day is now over and it is time to rest. You
may choose to do some light reading, tuck in the kids, or
make your lunch for tomorrow – what it is doesn’t matter, as
long as it’s the same small task repeated every night.
Once you have developed your schedule, make it a routine.
People with ADD often work well with this kind of structure.
You can change the activities you plan for each night, as
long as you stick to the basics. Get your body and mind used
to winding down in the evenings, and you may just find
yourself falling asleep easier at night!