Insomnia plagues many children and adults, but especially those diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The “hyperactivity” is the word; their bodies often jolt them awake late at night, causing problems falling—and staying—asleep. Many patients cite that they don’t fall into proper sleep until well into early morning hours and thus do not easily wake up at an average time. Imminent exhaustion does not help the sleep-deprived get more rest.
Ultimately, both natural remedies and bed “re-conditioning” can help ease symptoms of ADHD insomnia and lead toward a better night’s rest. Before we get to remedies, let’s examine some ways to re-condition how you think about sleep.
Brains are primed for routine, however subtle. Disrupting routines frequently and creating atmospheres of change can constantly put your body on the defensive. If your body becomes too used to one routine, or used to no routine at all, your brain can release ill-timed chemicals that keep you up at night, including adrenaline and cortisol. Patients must re-train their brain to expect certain things from a bed:
- Only sleep in a bed—Avoid daytime naps anywhere that is not a bed, no matter how tempting. Accidents happen, but too much sporadic sleep, in different locations, can confuse the brain as to when it should release fatigue-inducing chemicals for sleep. The brain may release a lower frequency at the wrong times of day. Only sleep at night, and only sleep in bed.
- Stick to a sleep schedule seven days a week—Following this step for the first few weeks can frustrate an insomniac, and especially an insomniac with ADHD. The brain requires an adjustment period of anywhere from two to four weeks to adapt to a solid sleep schedule. If rigorous, the patient can retrain their brain. Even more importantly, the patient must stick to their newfound sleep schedule, no matter the day of the week. Getting to bed early on weekends may sound like less fun, but even the tiniest disruption can undo weeks of work.
- Only use bed for sleep—While tied to number one, this differs in other areas. Many use their bed as a bedroom chair, a place to relax, or even work on their computers. But, just as sleeping anywhere but a bed can confuse the brain, doing anything else but sleeping in a bed can equally confuse the brain. Ultimately, you want the brain to see or feel a bed and release sleep chemicals. Isolating the bed for one single event can combat long-term insomnia.
The brain will settle into a sleep pattern that can work against insomnia. Patients with ADHD, however, often require help during the re-conditioning stages and beyond. Adults will know not to consume too much sugar or caffeine before bed, and to consume no aspartame at all, but they may not know about natural remedies—even some with minimal caffeine—that contain vitamins, minerals and nutrients that help calm the brain and ease the brain to sleep. Listed below are some uncommon, though effective, insomnia remedies:
The lemon balm plant, also called “balm mint,” smell lightly of lemon (hence the name) and have been used in many topical remedies since the Middle Ages. Studies show that lemon balm can work as an ointment, but also can be ingested to treat conditions pertaining to digestion, nerves, and insomnia.
In one study, those who drank a tea infused with lemon balm reported a faster, deeper, more restful sleep than those who took a placebo tea. Though lemon balm is seldom studied on its own, its purported effects are widely known. Include lemon balm in a nighttime tea about a half hour before bed.
Passion flower was used in South America as a natural sedative; today, its commonly used to treat anxiety, anxiety-related digestion problems, and insomnia. The flower boosts the brain’s natural production of an antioxidant that diminishes neurotransmitter signals. These signals perhaps contribute to the chief complaint of those with ADHD: a “loud” mind, or a mind with too many thoughts, prior to sleep. Studies recommend drinking a cup of passionflower tea once daily to combat an anxious, scattered mind, and to fight insomnia. You can also buy or make passion flower extracts.
While doctors don’t recommend drinking beer before bed—the brew uses the herb called hops—there exists a direct correlation between hops and sleepiness. Hops contains methylbutenol, a sedative chemical that calms neurotransmitters in a manner similar to passion flower. This is why many beer drinkers report that beer consumption makes them sleepy over time.
Hops can be dried and brewed in tea, but its best taken with other herbs. Specialists recommend a tea with valerian root and lemon flower for a nighttime-tea combination.
Melatonin is the hormone your body produces to control its sleep cycles. That is, if you’re having insomnia issues, your body likely isn’t producing the right amount of melatonin at the right times. While some foods contain melatonin, like starchy vegetables and some lean meats, you can purchase melatonin in drop form. Studies report that three to five drops of melatonin under the tongue, 15-30 minutes before bed, help many feel sleepy by reintroducing the hormone and prompting the brain to produce its own melatonin. But, if you choose melatonin, make sure to consult your doctor if you are pregnant, under the age of eighteen, or have other health conditions.
ADHD causes many energy and focus issues in patients. Sleep should be rescued to better combat ADHD symptoms during the day. By re-training your bed to think of certain locations and spans of time as “bedtime,” and by introducing natural remedy chemicals and hormones to the body prior to sleep, you can take that step closer to regular, more restful sleep cycles.
We would all love to sleep whenever we like, but most patients have to uphold daytime responsibilities that require the full night of sleep they deserve. Whether or not you have ADHD or insomnia, which remedies help you to fall asleep?