ADHD and (a lack of) Sleep

🦉 Why are so many of us night owls?

Jesse J. Anderson

— 5 min read

ADHD and (a lack of) Sleep

You may have noticed this newsletter looks a bit different. Skip down to the Moving to Substack section for more information on this!

Hello friends,

It’s no secret that most people with ADHD struggle with sleep.

Whether it’s getting to bed at a “reasonable” time (who decides what’s reasonable anyways?), falling asleep once you’re in bed, or staying asleep through the night—many of us struggle with at least one of these areas of sleep, if not all three.

We won’t even get into the difficulties of getting out of bed in the morning… 😬

I recently did a survey on Twitter about ADHD and sleep struggles:

More than half of the people said going to bed on time was their biggest struggle. This actually wasn’t surprising to me, since it’s my own primary struggle with sleep as well. (Many also responded to say that they struggled with “all of the above”)

At night, I often just feel stuck. Stuck sitting on the couch and unable to get myself to move to bed. I have this weird feeling like I don’t want to lose out on doing something important or productive with that time rather than sleep (even though I usually just end up refreshing social media instead).

A big reason so many of us struggle with getting to bed is that we just don’t feel tired at the same time that others do—our circadian rhythm feels delayed from the rest of the world.

It turns out this is actually a thing commonly called Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS), and it’s extremely common with ADHD. Some studies have said around 75% of people with ADHD also have this delayed circadian rhythm. (European College of Neuropsychopharmacology. (2017, September 4). Is ADHD really a sleep problem? ScienceDaily.)

This means we don’t get the natural signals from our body that tell us we should go to bed until much later than most people.

This also means it’s much more difficult for us to wake up in the morning. Not just because we are lacking sleep from going to bed so late, but because our body just isn’t giving us the signals to wake up yet.

So what can you do about it? I’ll be completely honest and say that I struggle with this big time. I’m still working on this newsletter and it’s nearly 2am in the morning. I need to wake up in less than 6 hours and I don’t feel tired yet.

But here are some strategies have been shown to help:

  • Environmental cues. Dim lighting in the evening (automated if possible), change into pajamas, read a book to slow down your busy brain.
  • Turn off electronics. Stop giving your brain all-night access to the dopamine slot machines that keep us stimulated.
  • Accountability buddy. If you live with someone, agree on some evening rules—what time tv goes off for the night, when evening chores need to be completed by, etc. All cues to help nudge you toward an early bed time.
  • Light therapy. You’ll need to consult a sleep specialist for this, but light therapy has been shown to be effective for treating DSPS.

Have any of these strategies been helpful for you? Or any other strategies? Let me know!

Stay focused,
Jesse J. Anderson

P.S. You may have already noticed that this newsletter looked a bit different than usual. And came from a new email address—make sure to add to your address book so you don’t miss any future issues!

Moving to Substack

So I’m doing an experiment with the newsletter—I’ve moved to Substack as my provider which adds a bunch of cool features that I’m very excited about!

  • Community Engagement
  • Mobile App & Chat
  • Direct Support

Community Engagement

People often reply to my newsletters and I love reading the great ideas and strategies and stories and everything that people share with me! But it bums me out that there isn’t an easy way for more people to connect in this way and see these great ideas being shared.

Occasionally, I ask for feedback and share some in a followup issue, like when I asked people to share ADHD strategies last month:

ADHD Strategies from the Community
Hello friends, Last week we talked about using different strategies for managing ADHD and asked all of you to send in some of your favorite strategies, and boy did you all deliver! I got so many great strategies and wanted to share some of them. Remember,

But now with Substack, people can interact with each other in the public comment section, using each newsletter as a topic prompt!

It will still be delivered to your email as before, but you can jump to the online version to further interact.

For example, this newsletter was about ADHD and sleep difficulties, so this would be a great opportunity to leave comments about your own experience with sleep and maybe share any strategies that have helped!

Mobile App & Chat

Substack has a native mobile app you can download, for even more convenient access to the Extra Focus newsletter.

This makes it easy to interact with some of the social features (liking, commenting), and even has a chat feature which I may experiment with as another option for more community engagement and interaction. 😅

Read Extra Focus • Finding Focus with ADHD in the Substack appAvailable for iOS and AndroidGet the app

Direct Support

I experimented with using sponsors and affiliates to help support the newsletter in 2022 and honestly, it never really worked that well. Without getting into the nitty gritty, the affiliate income wasn’t covering the cost to host the newsletter, so it was a net loss of time and energy.

But I love writing this newsletter and hearing from so many of you how this (and my other work) has helped you feel not so alone and given you support and a community in living with ADHD!

So in 2023, I’m going to try using an optional paid subscription/support model.

This will not change the weekly Extra Focus newsletter which will always be free!

The primary benefit for paid subscribers is to help support this newsletter and the other ADHD work I do. 💙

But I have added a couple of perks as a thank you to those who sign up to help support Extra Focus:

  • 🗄️ Full access to the newsletter archive
  • 🙌 Occasional paid subscriber-only posts

What are the subscriber-only posts going to be? Well, I’m not sure yet!

Here are a few ideas I have: early looks at future content I’m working on, deep dives into a specific topic, behind-the-scenes on the work I’m doing, book recommendations/notes, strategy compilations, etc.

If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them! Maybe leave some suggestions in the comment section. 😉