In today’s blog, we are talking about how to go to bed and get good sleep with an ADHD brain. If you’re an adult with ADHD, you probably already know that there is no such thing as going to bed on time.
The struggle is real, so here are 10 tips to help you fall asleep at the time that is right for you, specifically for a brain that has ADHD!
Tip #1: Think about WHY you’re not going to sleep on time
The first step to going to sleep on time is to really reflect on your habits. Ask yourself these questions:
- Why don’t I want to go to be?
- Why do I lose all sense of time?
- Why might I be avoiding bedtime?
The answers might surprise you. I see a lot of clients avoid bedtime because they are carrying around a ton of self-loathing and shame about how productive their day went.
There are tons of reasons why we might not want to go to bed. We might be feeling unproductive and feel like we need to “make up” for it at the end of the day. Or, sometimes we just struggle to know what time it, and have trouble making the transition from one activity to another. Whatever the reasons are, they are all valid, but the first step to getting the rest we deserve is to cultivate an awareness of WHY we resist sleep.
Tip #2: Give yourself encouragement
Once you’ve understood why you aren’t going to bed, it’s time to give yourself the encouragement you need to actually get in bed and go to sleep. If you’re feeling embarrassed about your productivity, the next thing you need to do is give yourself some validation by telling yourself you deserve to rest! You have to actively tell yourself you’ve done enough and that it is time to relax.
Even if you don’t feel like you got enough done, we still have to tell ourselves it’s time to shut our brains down. It is the only way we can transition from a busy mind to one that is ready to relax and get ready for the next day.
Tip #3: Set aside a short amount of time to wrap things up
Many times when we set intentions to go to bed, our brains take that as an opportunity to get distracted and start doing all the things we forgot to do during the day. Like, I need to start the dishwasher really quick, or write that email, or sign the papers for my kid’s school thing…
As a person with ADHD, our minds are very hyperactive, so this tip is all about creating space to shut off by setting time aside at the end of the day to wrap up all the loose ends.
Tip #4: Do a thought-download
If you notice that you are hyper-focusing on a thought pattern or your brain is just extremely busy, a really helpful tool is to do a thought download.
A thought download is an awesome brain hack that is all about getting the junk out of our brains, so we don’t have to hold it there anymore. The trick is to take everything that is going on in our brains and write it on paper. Once it’s on paper, it’s much easier to let all of that busyness go.
Tip #5: Take Melatonin
First, ask your doctor about the best sleep medication for you, but melatonin is a great option. There is no shame in taking a sleep aid, so if you have trouble sleeping, I encourage you to take Melatonin or some other sleep medication that your doctor prescribes.
Tip #6: Get support from your people
If you have a roommate, spouse, or partner that is good at going to bed on time, I recommend you use them as a “body double”. Using other people’s habits to encourage ourselves to go to bed is a productive strategy that I have seen work for many of my clients. No matter how much you don’t want to do it, 9 out of 10 times using the motivation of someone else going to bed works.
Tip #7: Do some yoga or some stretching
In my experience, doing some light yoga or stretching before bed has really helped both myself and my clients go to bed on time. So, if you’re having trouble sleeping, doing something relaxing and body-centric like yoga can really help with the resistance.
Tip #8: Limit exposure to electronics in the evening
In my experience, electronics can keep our brains super active and busy, so if you feel like this is you, it’s a great idea to implement a system where you turn off electronics at some point in the evening.
If you’re the type of person who gets really distracted by your phone, another quick tip is to go to sleep without your phone in your room. Putting it in the kitchen or the bathroom is a great idea.
Tip #9: Use a sleep or meditation app
For those of us with ADHD who have trouble turning our brains off, a sleep or meditation app can be a fantastic resource. Headspace and Insight Timer are both really great options. Meditation apps can help us focus and set our brain waves up to support sleep.
Tip #10: Do NOT look at the clock
Inevitably, there will be nights where everything you do to go to sleep doesn’t work. On those nights, the best thing you can do for yourself is not to look at the clock. It will just stress you out!
Make sure to be kind to yourself, and not beat yourself up for “having only three hours left to sleep.” Set yourself up for success and do not look at the clock when you are struggling to sleep. The emotional backlash of that will keep you from sleeping even more.
The main takeaway when it comes to trying to go to sleep with an ADHD brain is just to be kind to yourself. The process will not be perfect. You’re not always going to be able to sleep well. And all of that is okay! There will be times when your hormones and brain chemicals are doing weird things, and it’s going to make you not want to go to bed. Just relax, be kind, don’t beat yourself up, and try again tomorrow.