ADHD and Sleep: Making Time For It

By Jeff Copper, MBA, PCC, PCAC, CPCC, ACG – May 27, 2024

Those with ADHD are often challenged to maintain a regular sleep schedule due to the restless and overactive nature of their minds. There are just too many other more interesting things to do than sleep. Racing thoughts and an inability to switch off cognitive processes can make bedtime a frustrating ordeal, leading to inadequate and poor sleep. It’s like a roller coaster ride!

Now, let’s talk about the big bully in the room. Yes, we’re talking about time. Unfortunately, sleep is often the aspect of life that gets sacrificed in the competition for time. With work, school, family, and hobbies competing for your precious hours, sleep often gets the short end of the stick, not to mention what happens with ADHD in the mix! When you’re running on empty, it’s just brain chaos!

The struggle is real, and those racing thoughts can make it tough to wind down and you end up staring at the ceiling. We’ve all been there, tossing and turning, waiting for the hours to tick by. One of the biggest hurdles is actually putting down the phone, turning off the TV, and getting ready to go to bed in the first place. There are so many more interesting things to do than sleep. And sleep seems boring!

Nevertheless, it is essential that you follow some guidelines to create a proper sleep environment. This will take effort on your part, but in the end, it will be worth it when you begin to see the improvement in focus, attention, and emotional regulation. All of these are executive function areas that are typically impaired by ADHD, but sleep is one of the best ways to enhance them.

So, below are some basic tips to help. Even though you may already know about these common suggestions for good sleep hygiene but don’t do them because they are difficult, you need to make the effort::

    • Keep the bedroom clutter-free.
    • Minimize distractions.
    • Put down or turn off electronic devices.
    • Make sure the room is dark.
    • Set the room temperature for comfort.

Try to identify the methods that work best for you and then be consistent in using them. It may be difficult, but consistency is beneficial in signaling your brain that it is time to wind down and prepare for sleep. These strategies help counteract the racing thoughts and hyperactivity of ADHD that interfere with falling asleep.

Better sleep can have a profound positive impact on your overall functioning and quality of life. Remember, be patient with yourself, and don’t forget to laugh at the quirky journey that is ADHD and sleep. Please check out my podcast interview with Dr. Roberto Olivardia, “ADHD and Sleep: Who Has Time for It?”

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