Poor Sleeping Habits

By Ari Tuckman, PsyD, MBA, ADDA Board Member

Oh what I would give for a good night's sleep. . .

Lots of folks with ADHD have sleep problems. (So do lots of other people, but we won't be talking about them here.) Some people wind up with sleep problems as a side effect of their medication, but many of them already had sleep problems.

ADHD can cause people to get to bed too late in several ways.

First, procrastinating, inefficiency, or poor planning. Some ADHD folks wind up getting to bed late because the day got away from them and they have to stay up longer to finish things.

Second, hyperfocus. It's easy to get caught up in an enjoyable activity, like surfing the Internet, reading, or watching TV/movies and not notice that time has flown by. So the person who wants to turn out the lights at midnight winds up staying up until 2:00 AM. Not intentionally, but the outcome is the same.

Third, rationalizing bad choices. Whereas with hyperfocus it just happens without thinking about it, with rationalization the person intentionally makes a bad choice but justifies it. For example, "I don't have that much I have to do tomorrow, so I can be a little tired." Other times the rationalization is simply, "I don't want to go to bed yet". Kind of a "damn the consequences" approach.

Fourth, a brain that won't turn off. For some ADHD folks, even if they do get into bed on time, it can be hard to turn their brains off and stop thinking about things. They're not really worrying, because it isn't all negative, it's just lots of thinking.

Obviously everybody does better with a good night's sleep, so it's worth striving for. Unfortunately, getting to bed on time is also easier said than done. In a way, lots of other things in your day need to go well if you are to get a good night's sleep. That's the hard part. We could even use your bed time as a rough measure for how your day went-we're probably all more likely to get to bed on time on a good day than a bad day.

So, if you find yourself getting to bed too late, try to identify which of the reasons above (or others) are causing it. Once you know that, it's easier to know how to address it. The solutions may not be quick and easy, but hopefully they are helpful. Life can be hard enough without only firing on half your cylinders!