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It’s no secret to anyone with ADHD that getting to sleep can be a real bitch sometimes. People often ask how I fall asleep with ADHD, and I usually find that my sleep difficulties fall under two categories, one that can be helped more than the other. In one case, something serious is going on at home or work and it’s sometimes normal to be kept up at night fretting. The other kind, the one that can be helped, is when I mindlessly let myself fall prey to things like screen time or an overactive mind.
A Good Evening Routine Begins With A Concrete Goal
For most of us, getting enough restful sleep isn’t going to happen on its own. We have school, work, parenting and pet obligations that force us out of bed whether we’re ready or not. This is why it’s so important to start the process of winding down well ahead of when you’ll actually want to go to bed.
First, ask yourself what time you need to get up in the morning and how many hours of sleep you require. From there, work backwards and add in 15-45 minutes for how long it’s going to take to fall asleep. Once you have that magical number of when your bedtime routine needs to begin, set a daily reminder.
What’s In An Evening Routine?
Your evening routine can be anything you want it to be, but typically the medical professionals recommend no screen time. Some even say no reading, but if it’s leisurely and it helps you fall asleep, you do you! Other things that it may include could be a warm bath, journaling and meditation. While exercise right before bed isn’t typically recommended, during the day it can actually help you sleep better (especially if you’re getting some sunlight while you’re at it!)
While everyone’s different and it may take some trial and error, here are some common things that can help you find a more restful sleep.
- Natural sleep aids, typically some sort of combination of melatonin, valerian root and chamomile. Check out our picks for the best natural sleep aids for ADHD.
- Herbal tea, particularly Sleepytime Extra Wellness Tea (an upgrade of the OG Sleepytime Tea with chamomile also includes valerian).
- White noise machines, white noise on the phone, or asking your favorite smart home device to play nature sounds
- Cutting down on caffeine. I’m not gonna lie, I’m a soda addict. And so I do tend to pound the Diet Cokes. And then at night, I’ve been trying to switch to Caffeine Free Diet Coke while I’m zoning out in front of my TV. I know that’s not the medically sound way to wind down at night, but I could do much worse.
How I Fall Asleep With ADHD
Step 1: Turn Off My Overactive Brain
So some of the things that keep me up at night are my brain being overly active. There’s a couple of reasons for that, sometimes there’s really a reason to have an overly active brain. Other times, my brain is just so used to being active that it needs time to burn off.
One of the ways I try to address that is setting the alarm about an hour before going to bed for wind down time. (And this is the ideal scenario, by the way. I mean, I’m not doing this every single night.) When I’m at my very best, I’m keeping myself away from my phone. And if I catch myself thinking about something important, like work, I try and nudge myself to change the subject in my head.
The idea is basically just emptying the mind, and for me mindless TV is okay. I know a lot of medical professionals will probably say no TV time either. But to me, all things being equal, I’d much rather be zoning out in front of the TV than completely cutting myself off from everything. Because mindless TV is relaxing, to me, just like reading can be relaxing.
Step 2: Shut Down Annoying Sights & Sounds
The other thing that commonly keeps me awake at night are just like different sensations, like the fan tickles my nose or having too much blanket or not enough. The temperature has to be perfect. I can’t handle it any sort of noises. And so if someone’s breathing too heavy, or there’s something going on outside, I am completely going to be unable to sleep. I do have earplugs, but then those keep me awake because they’re not comfortable. It’s a whole production just to get to bed.
Part of the ritual is using scented pillow spraying with essential oils, particularly this one from Bath & Body Works. And I don’t necessarily think I spray this on my pillow and boom, it’s got some magical effect like Ambien. However, it is this olfactory signal that it is bedtime because I do use that pillow spray when I’m practicing sleep hygiene. That smell really reminds me of the nights that I do get restful sleep. So I think by association, it helps me. So you can set the tone for your night with a really good pillow spray.
Step 3: Yes Girl, I Wash My Face
For me, I cannot go to bed without a clean face and brush teeth. I don’t necessarily have to shower, or take a bath, although a hot bath with aromatherapy body wash is very relaxing. And so whatever your ritual is, I would say don’t just let yourself fall asleep wherever you are, however you are. Be very intentional about your evening hygiene and almost treat it like a sacred ritual.
Step 4: Nestle In Good, Clean Bedding
This may not be be an option for you if you’re on a tight budget right now, but something else that can really help your sleep is investing in a really good mattress. While it’s recommended you replace your mattress every 7-10 years, I’m desperate for a new mattress after 5 years. And if it is in your budget, it’s going to be something to provide good back support as well as just feel good. Another thing along the same vein is to invest in some really nice sheets. These are the sheets I get on Amazon, I’m completely in love with them. And I change them once a week and I have extras that I keep in an under bed storage bag (because I suck at folding and this is the next-best thing). I always have fresh sheets and pillowcases, that kind of stuff really makes a difference for me. (Don’t get me wrong … I’m not always on top of my laundry, so I actually have 3 sheet sets that I rotate out.)
A comfort goes also goes along with good sheets, something that is the right temperature for you. Here are a few top picks on Amazon. Being a Texan, I use a light comforter year round, then in the colder months use a wool winter blanket under the comforter.
The reason people say sleep is so important, it’s because it is really important. And it really is everything, it’s a building block for everything else. Because your brain isn’t going to be able to function properly without sleep, leading to poor decisions, leading to the snowball effect of your day just getting worse. And then you’re going to find yourself stuck in situations you don’t want to be stuck in. And it really is.
People talk a lot about dieting, but how you sleep, when you sleep, how much sleep you’re getting – all those things that they are just as important as what you’re putting in your body. It sounds cliche, but they’re cliches because they’re true. Quick fixes like coffee can’t work long-term as a replacement for good sleep.
Be sure to also check out our comprehensive guide on ADHD and sleep as well as our top pics for best natural sleep aid for ADHD.