Sleep Strategies for Adults With ADD and ADHD

sleeping womanEveryone and every “body” is unique. Finding the right combination of approaches is the key in discovering how to get to sleep if you have ADHD/ADD!

Adults with ADHD often deal with several sleep issues. These include:

  • difficulty falling asleep at night,
  • struggling to wake up in the morning and
  • trouble remaining alert during the day.
  • Many also struggle with sleep-related disorders such as restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, and narcolepsy.

Circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle

One key factor in figuring out how to get to sleep, wake up refreshed, and remain alert during the day, is the Circadian rhythm or sleep-wake cycle.

Over an approximately 24-hour period, two hormones engage in a dance that regulates our alertness and produces sleep.

Cortisol is the hormone that creates alertness and wakefulness.

Its level should peak during the middle of the day. However, for individuals with ADHD, cortisol levels peak later in the day. This can cause individuals with ADHD to have more energy in the evening when the body should be preparing for sleep.

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Non-Medical Treatment of Adult ADHD – Exercise to Focus, Follow-through, and Feel Good!


“A bout of exercise is like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin.”
– Dr. John Ratey

And Dr. Ratey ought to know! The illustrious neuropsychiatrist from Harvard Medical School is the author with Dr. Ned Hallowell of the “Driven to Distraction” series and is one of the world’s leading authorities on the brain-fitness connection!

Exercise elevates your mood – which antidepressants such as Prozac do – and improves attention and concentration – which Ritalin does.

More and more professionals are recommending exercise as a treatment for mood and attention-related challenges such as ADHD, depression, bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia.

Benefits of Exercise

Physical activity turns our brains on! Our brains are more active during exercise than any other activity we engage in. Exercise is natural way to trigger the brain chemicals so helpful in managing the symptoms of ADHD.

The executive area of the brain – the part that controls activities that people with ADHD often find challenging such as planning, prioritizing, breaking down tasks into manageable steps, organization, memory, mood, motivation and follow through – is switched on during exercise, and the effects last for some time after we stop moving.

Physical activity keeps our brains young and perky by slowing down the process of degeneration that can result in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It improves our memory and helps our brain learn new habits, routines, and facts. Exercise promotes sleep and is a natural depression fighter.

Exercise makes your brain better in so many ways, so it’s a “no-brainer” decision to find ways to work more physical activity into your day!

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Diet As a Non-medical Treatment for Adult ADHD

protein foods 3“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”
― Ann Wigmore, natural food advocate

My mom was a nutritionist, so I grew up learning about “eating healthy.” Of course back when I was a child, the ideas about what constituted healthy eating were a lot different than they are today! But nutrition is still one of my interests!

One of the most important things you can do for your brain, and your life is to make informed choices about your diet. Taking charge of your diet is one of the most potent non-medical treatments for ADHD available to you!

ADHD doesn’t come in “one size fits all” so you need to carefully monitor your reactions so you know which foods are giving you more energy, mental clarity, and peace of mind and which are making you foggy-headed, depressed, and miserable.

Make strategic decisions about protein

Most people who have ADHD find that they reap the following benefits when they make careful choices about their consumption of protein – they

  • think more clearly
  • have more energy
  • are able to focus for longer periods, and
  • follow-through more effectively and consistently

Why is this? One of the brain chemicals responsible for attention, concentration and controlling movements of the body is the neurotransmitter, dopamine. Having more dopamine available in the brain diminishes the symptoms of ADHD. What does this have to do with protein?! Dopamine is manufactured from protein!

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Adult ADHD, Carbs and Mental Clarity

carbs“When you feed a person with ADHD, you are feeding the brain and not the stomach.”

– Anonymous

Everything we consume has an intimate connection with how our bodies function – you can’t get away from that eternal truth! Nothing in the world will completely reverse the negative effects of a “horrible” diet. Nothing.

No one understands that better than I do.

When I was 29 years old I had a complete immune system breakdown. I developed so many severe health problems that I couldn’t leave the house for 5 years…I couldn’t work for 10 years.

The list of physical problems that I had to contend with reads like a horror story:

Irritable bowel syndrome, interstitial cystitis, myofascial pain syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, hepatitis, systemic candidiasis, and 25 knee dislocations (have you ever tried to take a shower when you’re on crutches – not fun).

I went from doctor to doctor, treatment to treatment, and yes, diet to diet! One doctor put me on a bland diet, another a gluten-free diet, a third a macrobiotic diet. And lots and lots of nutritional supplements and herbal medicines, of course.

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