By ADD Coach Jennifer Koretsky
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 days.
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.
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!
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