The Coaches Corner:
- Start with a plan for getting out of the house on time. Know how long it (realistically) takes you to get ready and/or to get your child ready in the morning. Then work backwards to determine the necessary wakening time. Many adults are consistently late to work because they underestimate the amount of time it takes them to get up and prepared to leave. Then they’re surprised they aren’t ready on time.
- Prepare the night before. Mornings are not the best time to decide on which outfit to wear, to find everything needed for a meeting, to polish your shoes, etc. Make your life easier by simplifying your AM activities.
- For the wakening-challenged, it may help to use a clock radio with a snooze alarm (set to other than your favorite music, and not to a news program – why wake up to news about killings, war, famine, the President, traffic, etc.).
- Set the clock radio to turn on thirty minutes before you need to get up. If you take stimulant medication, ask your doctor about keeping your morning dose next to the bed, along with a covered glass of water.
- When the radio goes on, take your meds, hit the snooze button and go back to sleep for 15 minutes. By the time the radio goes on a second time, the meds will be beginning to take effect, and waking will be easier. (Don’t become a snooze-alarm repeat offender.)
- Set a second alarm clock (one that’s really annoying) to go off along with the second radio alarm. Place it just beyond your reach from bed, forcing you to get up. If necessary, have a third alarm even further away. Use your remaining 15 minutes to comfortably transition between sleep and preparing for the day.
- Start the day with enthusiasm and clarity. If you have a clear idea of what you intend to do with your day, there’s less confusion and you’ll find it easier to “get going.” Sometimes things seem so overwhelming, not knowing what to do next, that it’s easier to stay in bed!
Going to Sleep… Tips to make it easier!
First of all, try for a good night’s sleep. Many people with ADD/ADHD need more sleep than others and are more sensitive to not getting the sleep they need. This is difficult, because many ADDers tend to stay up very late, due to their circadian rhythm and/or the relative quiet. Night is often the most productive time for ADDults. Other people tend to get up very early, finding the early morning most productive. Even so, it’s really important to keep to a consistent, and relatively early, bedtime – especially if you live with someone, have children, or own a dog.
- A consistent bedtime ritual helps. Adults benefit from being more disciplined (forcing themselves to stop their reading, TV-viewing or working), so they can go to sleep. They’ll be less likely to disturb their partner’s sleep, and can even enjoy a companionable bedtime cuddle. They’ll also find it easier to get up in the morning.
- Parents need to be firm about enforcing their child’s bedtime. It’s also important to make time for their child’s nightly bedtime ritual (bath, books, hugs, etc.). Try to keep the same bedtime and ritual on weekends. Remember that many kids with ADD/ADHD are born negotiators – they will attempt everything possible to avoid going to bed (or doing anything they’d rather not!). Stay in control!
- On the practical side, avoid evening exercise, heavy meals and stimulating entertainment (exceptions allowed!).
- If medication seems to interfere with sleep, tell your doctor. Perhaps an adjustment can be made in dosage, timing or type of med.
- Many people with ADD are very sensitive to noise. While too much noise can keep them awake, a lack of noise may have the same effect. “White noise” can be calming, as can some of the environmental tapes or soothing music. The goal is to stop the brain from thinking and encourage relaxation. Music often acts as “white noise,” helping filter out distracting stimuli, which is why come children prefer to do their homework with music in the background (TV is too distracting, even if they tell you otherwise). Other options include one of the many “white noise” machines long popular in therapists’ waiting rooms and now available in specialty stores and catalogs (try one for yourself or in your young child’s room at bedtime). Some of the nature tapes and CD’s are relaxing, for both children and adults (but test them out; we think that some of these actually increase anxiety levels!).
- A good suggestion for parents of young children is to record your voice reading one of the child’s favorite books, or singing nighttime songs. Play your tape as part of the bedtime ritual, after the in-person part and before sleep. This frees you to leave the room and is also great when you aren’t home—your child has the security of hearing your voice before bedtime, and it also keeps the bedtime ritual consistent.
- Certain scents, such as lavender, are considered very relaxing by some individuals. Experiment with scented oils on your pillow at night, scented candles or room fresheners (don’t overdo it!).
- People tend to sleep better in an uncluttered, clean environment. Try to keep “stuff” out of the bedroom. If you must have items like a working desk in your bedroom, use a decorative screen to hide the work when you’re in bed.
- Use the bed for sleeping. Avoid working or doing homework in bed, playing, watching TV or even reading in bed. (It’s Pavlovian: See bed, go sleep – too many options and you lose the benefit of consistent thinking, and action.)
- Prepare several enjoyable and peaceful images you can visualize to relax yourself, or buy a calming graphic and hang it near the bed. Associate these with sleep.
- If your child (or spouse) picks lights-out as the time to converse, don’t buy into it (unless there’s some important emotional issue going on). Avoid discussion; just state that you’ll talk about it in the morning, not now.
- If bedtime is when you tend to obsess about anything negative that happened during the day, problems that need to be addressed or things you need to do. Take a few minutes to write it down the most pressing issues, then try to let it go – at least for the night. Studies have shown that effective problem-solving often happens during sleep, when your unconscious works on a solution.
- Many people have difficulty falling asleep because bedtime is the first time they’ve had a chance to just think. Unfortunately, they think about all the things they have to do, begin to obsess about them and can’t fall asleep. If there isn’t anything pressing, they’ll look for problems. Adults and teens should take 15 minutes in the evening to reflect on the day they’ve had, and the things they need/want to accomplish. Write that stuff down. If you try to remember, you’ll wind up repeating the information over and over in your head, which is neither restful nor effective. Writing it down clears the brain and facilitates getting the task accomplished. The list you generate can also serve as your “To-Do/Must-Do” for the following day.
- While you’re at it, write down three things you “did good” that day. (It’s easier to remember the details of anything you messed up, but it’s worth the effort to remember those things you did well, or at least better than you have in the past.)
Susan Lasky is a both Board Certified and Senior Certified ADHD Coach.
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ADD and ADHD are used interchangeably for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
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