The Coronavirus pandemic has given us plenty of reasons to lose sleep. In fact, more people than ever are experiencing sleep disturbances. ‘Coronasonia’ is a new term to describe sleeplessness and sleep loss that occurs because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Struggling to sleep is an issue for people with ADHD at the best of times, but with a global pandemic thrown into the mix, is it any surprise that sleeping is more problematic than usual?
This article looks at the phenomenon of Coronasomnia combined with ADHD and offers advice for people who struggle with sleep disturbances.
Coronasomnia and ADHD
All over the world, people are experiencing insomnia linked to the pressure of life during the global pandemic. In 2020 the word ‘insomnia’ appeared in more Google searches than ever before. Increased insomnia is a direct consequence of all the changes we’re experiencing.
Both adults and children with ADHD often have difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep and not waking up at the desired time. It’s estimated that three out of four children and four out of five adults with ADHD experience some form of sleep disorder.
The pandemic has led to long-term disruption of our routines, as well as our working patterns and environments. This situation means that some people with ADHD have found their symptoms have become more pronounced and difficult to manage. One of these symptoms is insomnia.
Sleep is the body’s natural way to re-charge and sleep problems can impair overall health and wellbeing. If racing thoughts and bursts of energy interfere with sleep patterns, it can exacerbate other ADHD signs and symptoms. Over time, stress-related to bedtime can make insomnia worse.
Sleep deprivation can lead to forgetfulness and lack of concentration which are common ADHD symptoms. Sometimes people are misdiagnosed as having ADHD when they actually have a sleep disorder. This is why it’s essential to get an accurate ADHD diagnosis to make sure it really is ADHD and not a sleep disorder that presents similar symptoms.
Insomnia is not entirely unexpected given what we’re living through; it’s common for it to spike after big, negative world events. In general, whenever someone experiences trauma they are susceptible to persistent sleep problems. Remember, these circumstances are far from ordinary and there are bound to be consequences. It’s important to appreciate the enormity of what we’re living through and remain as optimistic as we can about the future.
How to beat Coronasomnia if you have ADHD
If you are experiencing Coronasomnia, sleep loss caused by ADHD or any kind of regularly disrupted sleep, it’s important to practise good sleep hygiene. This means creating the right set of conditions that will lead to the best possible sleep outcome, both in terms of falling asleep and staying asleep. Sleep hygiene is different for everyone and takes time to get right. Below are some suggestions for improving sleep hygiene.
Consistent Bedtime Routine
A solid bedtime routine isn’t only important for children, adults need this too as certain actions send signals to the brain to tell it to get ready to rest. If it takes you a long time to fall asleep, don’t rush your bedtime routine, but try to start it earlier. Also, try to avoid daytime napping. It’s understandable to want to catch up on lost sleep during the day, but it’s a hard habit to break once started; it can lead to less refreshing nighttime sleep and multiple nighttime awakenings.
Relax Before Bedtime
Many of us like to sit back and watch TV in the evening to relax. While this is good to make the body rest, certain types of programmes can really get our minds racing. The late-night news is a good one to miss out on if the pandemic is causing you anxiety. Avoid close up screens and games just before bed. Gaming rarely relaxes the brain, although some apps are specifically designed to do this, such as the calm app.
Consider Your Environment
This is an obvious one but it’s worth thinking about. A comfortable bed in a room that is the right temperature without distractions from noise, bright lights or interrupted by early morning sunlight makes a massive difference to how you sleep. Of course, it’s not always possible to create the perfect sleep environment, and some factors are beyond your control but little changes can significantly impact your ability to relax and go to sleep.
Use Your Bed For Sleeping
You need to have one designated space where you sleep so your brain associates that place with sleeping. Watching TV in bed, working in bed and falling asleep on the sofa all confuse the neurological messages between your brain and your body making it harder for you to get to sleep. If you are working from home, do not work from your bed, no matter how tempting it might be. Your brain is conditioned to do work in the workplace and to sleep in your sleeping place. Blurring these boundaries leads to confusion and makes sleep disruption more likely.
Some people with ADHD find they can hyperfocus best on tasks in the evening when there are fewer distractions around. This is relevant for students and school pupils doing homework, as well as for anyone who works at home. While this can be great for getting things done, make sure you stop well in advance of going to bed to give you some downtime. Try to be organised and don’t put things off until the last minute.
Avoid Caffeine Before Bed
Caffeine is a stimulant that has more of an effect on some people than others. Although caffeine levels peak fairly soon after consumption, it can take up to ten hours to completely clear from your bloodstream. Even if you think it doesn’t impact your sleeping, try avoiding caffeine in the evening or after a certain time to see if it makes a difference.
Practice Mindful Meditation
Living in the moment is important during these uncertain times. The pandemic is causing much stress and uncertainty about the future. When you go to bed, it’s important to think about how you are safe and comfortable right now. This makes it easier to face tomorrow. Our article The Mindfulness Prescription for ADHD outlines the benefits of mindful meditation.
While physical activity can improve sleep, timing is key. Aerobic exercise causes the body to release endorphins which can keep the body awake. This is why people feel so alert after a run. Our bodies need time after exercise to allow the endorphin levels to come down, so avoid intense exercise just before bed.
If you disturb yourself in the night by moving excessively, you may want to try using heavy bedding or weighted blankets that are specifically designed to help people with ADHD to sleep. Although weighted blankets are often recommended as an aid for children, they are also available for adults. They are thought to reduce anxiety and lead to a better night’s sleep.
ADHD Medication And Treatment
Some ADHD medication can affect sleep, so you need to monitor any changes in sleep patterns once a course of medication has been started. If necessary, talk to your provider about tweaking your medication schedule to optimise it for sleep. At the ADHD Centre, our experienced team of ADHD coaches use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques to support people in regulating their sleep patterns.
It seems coronavirus is one more reason why some people can’t sleep. Given the immense scale of the pandemic, we can expect it to be a source of stress and anxiety for some time to come. If you are struggling to sleep, whether it’s a result of the pandemic or not, it’s really important that you seek help. We’ve included links to a few articles below to provide more information about this subject.
If you or a loved one is struggling to cope with ADHD symptoms, please get in touch with us. We offer face to face and online ADHD assessment and evidence-based treatment packages. Contact us on 0800 061 4276 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
References And Further Reading
- The Coronasomnia Phenomenon Keeping Us From Getting Sleep
- Why Children With ADHD Hate Bedtime
- ADHD, Sleep And Me: It’s Complicated
- ADHD And Sleep
- Exercising For Better Sleep
If you are interested in learning about mindfulness, we offer a six-part mindfulness course. Click the link below to find out more and take the first lesson for free.