As someone living with ADHD, there are probably a lot of things about your sleep that doesn’t seem logical. When you dig a little deeper though, and understand how ADHD affects sleep, it can start to make sense. Plus then, you are in a great place to start resolving your sleep issues.
Last week, we talked about the 4 common ADHD sleep issues.
1. Making yourself go to bed
2. Falling asleep
3. Staying asleep
4. Waking up
While some people only have 1 of those issues, many people have 2 or 3. There are some common combinations, including:
2. Falling asleep and 4. Waking up.
People who have this combination are often puzzled and wonder, ‘If I was so tired that I couldn’t wake up, why couldn’t I fall asleep?
Here are 3 common reasons why people with ADHD can’t fall asleep:
1. Sleep hormones are typically released at a later time in the ADHD body compared to the non–ADHD population; which is why it is hard for you to fall asleep before 2am or 3am.
2. Your ADHD brain goes on overdrive the minute your head hits the pillow. You start thinking +++ about the past, the future and all your worries. This makes sleep impossible.
3. You have a negative association with sleeping in your bed. Your bed has become such a battleground for sleep, it makes it difficult to fall asleep there. However, if you are on a plane, train or at friend’s house, you can fall asleep within minutes.
Like other humans, adults with ADHD need approximately 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Though if you are falling asleep at 3 am and need to get up at 6 am, that is only 3 hours. In just one night, you have a 4 hour sleep deficit. Most people with ADHD are walking around chronically sleep deprived.
Our bodies are very clever though. They will make sure it gets what it needs for your long term health and well being. Eventually, your body will override mental logic such as: ‘I need to get up in 2 hours to go to work’, to make sure you get the sleep you need. This type of sleep is usually very deep, and you won’t hear your alarm clock.
When I was training to be a nurse, I lived in halls of residence. One of my friends there had a problem waking up. Alarm clocks couldn’t wake her and she would get into trouble for being late for class and placements at the hospital. Once, the fire alarms were set off and she slept right through them. The fire alarms were very loud, and most people were relieved to evacuate the building and be away from the sound. Yet my friend kept sleeping. When the firemen arrived, they went door to door be make sure everyone was safely outside. Much to my friend’s embarrassment, when she finally woke up, it was because there were 3 firemen in her room trying to wake her up!
If you have problems waking up, you probably have a collection of stories like this. They might be fun to tell at parties, but it makes daily life difficult. In fact, some people would rather not go to sleep at all, than risk sleeping through an alarm and missing an important event.
Not everyone with ADHD sleeps this soundly. Some ADHDers are very light sleepers, and will wake up frequently throughout the night regardless of how tired they are.
Even though ADHD does make falling asleep difficult, don’t despair! There are actions you can take to fall asleep earlier and quicker each night. Then, because you are getting more sleep each night, it will be easier to wake up in the mornings.