Tuesday, July 7, 2009

To Sleep, Perchance to Turn Off That *&$@# Computer

Being new to the area, my husband and I got lost on the way to our first adult ADHD discussion group in downtown San Francisco. Some heated bickering later ("You said to turn left!" and "I didn't mean that left!"), we finally arrived and caught our breath. That's when a worn-out looking man across the table said something that sticks with me, ten years later:

"I've blamed a lot of people in my life for my troubles, but when it comes down to it, I finally realize that I am my own worst enemy. For forty years, I've not only opposed what other people want me to do, I've opposed what I want to do."

      We've all heard that adult ADHD can create problems in relationships, but this man's epiphany struck some foundational truth: Having ADHD can create problems in your relationship with yourself, never mind someone else.
     No matter how much you want that healthy diet, that uncluttered home, or that comfortable bank account, unaddressed ADHD symptoms mean you can't always initiate and maintain the necessary steps to get there. Add another person to the equation, and the potential for misunderstanding and hurt feelings reaches dizzying proportions.

Sleep  Challenges Affect Both Partners

Take sleep, for example. More than half the respondents to the ADHD Partner Survey identified their mates' ADHD-related challenges with sleep as a big problem, almost as challenging as difficulties in listening, remembering, and organizing.
      In fact, an amazing number of my friends with ADHD tell me that they fight sleep—actively, resentfully fight it. As Brad explains, "Gina, going to sleep is about the most boring thing a person with ADHD can do—just lie there in the dark waiting for something to happen." Miranda says she pushes herself to cross an impossible number of to-do items from her impossibly expanding list each night until she finally collapses into bed, too tired to fight it any longer.
      Glen says that, by age 45, he'd grown weary of the mental battles he'd wage with himself about going to sleep. Of course he knew he needed a decent night's sleep in order to function the next day; he's not stupid. But just the thought of going to bed at a decent hour triggered the infamous "ADHD oppositionality." He staved off sleep by watching TV while scanning every news headline worldwide on the Internet.
      Finally, he started trying to sneak up on himself, so as not to trigger the opposition. "So," he says, "now I tell myself, at about 10 each night, I'm not going to bed now. I'm just going to put on my sleep shirt. A few minutes later, I'll turn on the bed-stand light, all the while assuring myself, I'm not going to sleep now, I'm just turning on the light." In his heart of hearts, though, he fiercely rejects the illogic of spending precious hours sleeping when he is so behind on… everything. Finally, he's started to accept that more hours won't make a difference; it's a sea change that's needed.

You Mean I'm Not the Only One with This Problem?

Until recently, these three adults assumed that their difficulties around sleep were their own insoluble personal quirk or flaw. Finally, they learned about ADHD, did their research, and discovered they weren't alone in their challenges, including the nocturnal kind. ADHD neurobiology itself seems associated with higher-than-average sleep disorders—such as sleep apnea, delayed sleep phase, and restless leg syndrome. Moreover, these are often compounded by other ADHD traits such as disorganization and stimulation-seeking habits that keep many such adults glued to their computers or TVs when they should be dozing.
     If you are romantically involved with someone who has ADHD but neither of you recognizes it—or how it affects sleep, finances, communication, and so forth—it's easy to take the behaviors personally. Miranda's husband, Jeff, used to feel rejected when she'd delay coming to bed. He missed her company, missed enjoying sex with her. Moreover, "I felt like she was avoiding me, avoiding intimacy—running herself ragged all day, doing chores at weird hours,” Jeff explains. “She couldn't explain why she did these things, and, what's worse, she resented my even asking about it. Her defensiveness made me wonder if she might be having an affair."
     Such "couples troubles" could even bring you to counseling, where the clinician might completely miss ADHD and instead find deep, dark reasons why one of you refuses to come to bed. Fortunately, Jeff and Miranda figured it out: Lifelong struggles with undiagnosed ADHD had left Miranda feeling not only defensive but ashamed of sharing, even with her husband, her embarrassment about not being more organized, more efficient. So, she shut down and shut him out.
     As for Glen, he is not even currently in a relationship. So, he can't be opposing a partner's desires for him to come to bed; he’s opposing his own desires! If he doesn't start getting more sleep, he risks losing his job Finally, after talking with other adults with ADHD at a local meeting, he's decided to follow up on that long-ago diagnosis; perhaps getting help for his ADHD symptoms will help him gain better control of his day—and night.
     When you're living with adult ADHD—yours or someone else's—accurate information and solid support are absolutely essential. I hope you'll join me in future columns as we explore positive strategies and solutions. In the meantime, these five guidelines should help get you started:

1. Learn all you can from reliable sources. ADHD symptoms are highly variable and can turn up in the most surprising ways.
2. Practice empathy and forgiveness for yourself (and each other) for not discovering ADHD earlier.
3. Pursue evidence-based treatment strategies. With the right help, life can improve tremendously.
4. Nurture optimism. After years of trying and failing to alter problematic patterns, hoping for a different outcome can feel like a setup. It really does make a difference when you’re dealing with solid information (the ADHD diagnosis).
5. Get a good night's sleep—it will make everything easier!



  1. It's great that you're starting a blog! I loved your book and made my boyfriend read it as well. Looking forward to more posts!

  2. I'm so thankful I decided to spend the money to join CHADD. I'm also thankful I was directed to this blog. ADHD for an adult or child is a blessing and a curse. I'm working daily on how to manage, control, and release the guilt. I only wish my wife and I would have taken this on together much earlier. Thank you, thank you.

  3. Glad you are here! We need help.

  4. Did Gina see an expert medical doctor who would diagnose ADHD, suggest medical treaqtment and possibly some spesific medical treatment to improve the sleep pattern, but avoiding sleeping tablets.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this. This is so much like me. I find it hard to beleive that I have ADD. I have been dx'd. Everything I read about it is me. Your days sound like mine. I don't stay up all night but I wake at starnge times and can't go back to sleep.I take melatonin every night because I am terrified to not sleep because I have so mch I must get done.
    Thank you for sharing.

  6. Glen's words ring so true
    "But just the thought of going to bed at a decent hour triggered the infamous "ADHD oppositionality." He staved off sleep by watching TV while scanning every news headline worldwide on the Internet."
    That describes me perfectly.

    1. I totally get that, and I do the same thing.

  7. Great post Gina! My son was diagnosed with ADHD and I always suspected (actually knew) that I had it too. The people in the article sound like me.

  8. Great article! At 46 I am still surprised how this ADHD thing plays itself out in every aspect of my life. I used to think I got a good night sleep; until I got some great shut eye during surgery. I used to think I was the only one who could manage others; but couldn't manage my own life. My life seems like a huge paradox.

    I'm glad I can laugh at myself! And I'm most grateful for the love of my life. She's so supportive and understanding; and she too laughs a lot.

  9. WOW! This an eye opener for me... I will play computer games online telling myself for hours this is the last game, only to find myself clicking 'play a new game' everytime repeating to myself 'just one more'! The sun comes up, my work isn't done, stuff still all over the house, and nothing on my "list" has gotten crossed off all because I didn't know where to start so decided to play "a" game to clear my head. Hmmm.... my parents used to tell me I fought going to sleep when I was little too... My poor husband. He just doesn't want to accept that I have problems, and insists that I'm using 'ADHD' as an excuse to be terribly lazy, forgetful and rude. I try so hard, am good for a couple of weeks, then lapse back into the 'I can't get off the couch' feeling. I'm letting down clients with emtpy promises and excuses seem to be just part of my normal everyday talk. I'm on meds, but still have bad days that merge into weeks. I just wish it would all just fix itself so that I can be normal, what ever that is...

  10. Given that this article was about the difficulties of going to sleep with ADHD, I hope you'll write one addressing the challenges of getting up early, and timely, each morning.

  11. Great article, Gina. Please get your TOS problems fixed with blogspot.com so that I can subscribe to your RSS feed.

  12. Great post!!! I hope that you will go to FeedBurner soon, though, and create the option for email subscription & delivery or posts. I'm lazy that way. Tracking too much!

  13. But just the thought of going to bed at a decent hour triggered the infamous "ADHD oppositionality."

    Just recently I have began to focus on some behavior I have noticed in my add boyfriend that seems defiant. He talks about the stress of having the debt, talks about how he might pay but then concludes that he might not pay them at all for some supposed mistreatment they have given him. Thanks for posting that ADD oppositionality is real.

  14. My young adult ADHD son is constantly texting or on the computer or out with friends until 3 am, and the hours he keeps are driving the rest of the family crazy...I'm a light sleeper, and my husband has to get up for work at 6 am. At first I was thinking this is just "typical teen/twentysomething" late-night behavior, but your blog makes me fear it's not just a matter of his age, but rather his ADHD issues....How can you help someone change if they don't (yet) see it as a problem???

  15. Tamra,
    your post sounds exactly like mine, but my husband left after 10yrs of marriage. I knew I had ADD but thought it was just a focus thing not all the other problems it caused and thought I was just lazy or just couldnt seem to get myself to move and unclutter the house or finish the items on my todo list. my ex was always getting mad at me for forgetting to do things. I have felt so very inadequet over the last 44 yrs knowing WHY I have been the way I am helps but I worry about getting into another relationship, actualy scared to death. LOL who is going to want a messy, unorganized, unreliable spouse.Meds have helped the focus but not the organization or procrastination problems.

  16. It is amazing how many things can go on in your head at night when trying to go to sleep. And in fast forward.....My son is ADHD and I know were he gets it from. The more I understand him and what he is going through, the more I see me. My only goal is to help him find his coping mechanisms so that he might deal with his ADHD better than I have.

  17. sounds like me and my kids. i have 5 kids, and 4 have been diagnosed with adhd. man its crazy around here.

  18. Hi Gina
    I feel fortunate to have your written materials to provide to clients - those as yet undiagnosed, diagnosed and their partners. Helpful and encouraging, with your great sense of humor; glad you're there!

  19. Well, it's 2:42 in the morning and I'm on my computer. I worked on the computer until 12:30am and then went to bed thinking I'd go right to sleep. I spent 1 1/2 hours trying to get to sleep and moving from one room to the next, but no luck. It's not always like this, just certain times every month. I may start charting it, if I thought I'd actually follow through each month. :(

  20. I'm new to this Add thing. I read the article and realized I have warned many people before I have a conversation with them that I will only hear 1/2 of what they say even though I have perfect hearing. I may or may not remember the conversation the next time I see them, and you can tell me the same joke over and over again because I will not remember the punch line. sounds funny, but I am desperate to find a way to fix this. Diana, the starving artist

  21. i started trazadone for helping with sleep, staying asleep and night terrors, it is an antidepressent and is not addictive. it has helped so much with my sleep problems.

  22. I went to a neurologist because I thought something was wrong. Thankfully all was fine but it wasn't until I was 40yo that I realized and accepted that I struggled with ADHD and how it caused me to forget things/events. As mentioned, it interferes with sleep as well as work and my social life. Creating a routine has helped at lot. Forcing myself to do various things at certain times has minimized chaos and the 'busyness' of my brain.

  23. HI everyone,

    Thanks for all your responses! I'm glad to know that I've hit on points of common interest and hope that we can put our heads together on some solutions.

    One thing's for sure: ADHD is not a one-size-fits-all condition. The reason why one person with ADHD has difficulties around sleep won't be another person's reason. It's so important to "play detective" in your life -- keep asking questions and trying new strategies.

    I was just reading in Dr. Tom Brown's new book on co-existing conditions to ADHD (for clinicians) about ADHD sleep-related issues. You can read an overview on this excerpt at Google books:

  24. Wow - I never attributed my sleep problems to ADD, but it makes sense! I often tend to get really ramped up and hyper right before bed... even if I was dead tired only 30 minutes earlier. Thanks for this and other revelations!
    - Bronwyn

  25. Thank you for this posting. I'm both the mother of a child with ADHD and the wife of someone who was just recently diagnosed but remains untreated. For 15+ years of marriage, I've wondered why my husband resists going to bed at a "normal" hour, always insisting "I'll be right in." I never suspected it was a symptom of ADHD. Thank you for helping me understand. Like the person you spoke about, I assumed it was something to do with me.

  26. It's good to see CHADD producing something aimed at helping adults. I hope this becomes a regular feature.

  27. Hello Everyone,

    Of course, I discovered this wonderful BLOG while still checking e-mail at 5:00 in the morning!

    One of the Anonymous comments on July 8th prompts me to mention something, just in case it may be significant for anyone reading this BLOG. If ADD and/or sleep problems are worse at "certain times every month" this may have to do with a woman's level of estrogen. Among other things, estrogen stimulates the production of dopamine, which is the primary neurotransmitter that affects the ability to pay attention, to do what you plan to do, etc. (That's why many women with AD/HD finally get diagnosed in their late thirties or forties as their estrogen is declining enroute to menopause and life struggles finally send them searching further for answers than they have gone before.) ADD women of all ages can benefit by planning their activities, strategies, relaxation techniques, requests for support and sometimes medications (with help from appropriate specialists) with the estrogen factor in mind.

    Unfortunately, it's hard to find an expert on this subject in many parts of the country. Probably the best known M.D. who has lectured on the impact of hormones on ADD is Patricia Quinn. She retired a few years ago, but has co-authored several books, at least two of them specifically about how AD/HD affects girls and women.

    If I wanted to approach an internist, endocrinologist, etc. about this subject, I would probably fax some pages from one of Dr. Quinn's books (including her bio & credentials) or a handout from one of her ADDA conference lectures - at least a week ahead of time to give the doctor (or staff) a chance to think about this non-mainstream issue, perhaps call a colleague or even do a little research. (We can hope, can't we?)

    Now that I'm done, I see that I'll have to post my comment as Anonymous also, because I'm a novice blogger. I'm not familiar with half of the choices and not set up for the other half, because I try very hard to limit my computer time. It's just too much fun! I don't get my work done if I play too much. If I ever retire, I'm certain I'll become a little old lady with a laptop talking to people all over the world - probably about AD/HD.

    Best wishes to everyone in the search for good information, non-judgemental support and strategies suited to your own unique version of ADD or ADHD.

    Just call me Atlanta Coach for now.
    (I'll have to find a teenager to catch me up on the fine points of blogging & other online skills. I still use the telephone most of the time!)

    (MS,NCC,SPHR y Se Habla Espanol)

  28. My children are ADHD and I was I believe ADD growing up- if nothing more than to cope with the bordoms of school. My husband was ADHD or at least exhibited the lack of impulse control that our son has. Your blog helped. We are the couple with "life problems" in our marriage. Any suggestions?

  29. I swear on my mother's grave, I did not have sleeping problems until after I began medication. Understand, this is not because of the medications. I do not know what it is. I can take them or not take them in the evening. I can take them in the am and be able to sleep for a nap, two hours later.

    Every night of the world, I do not go to bed. IF I went to bed, I would have no trouble sleeping. I used to say - and it was true - that I could sleep anywhere: the bed, the car, the couch, the train, plane, you name it. It is still true.

    It is the Going To Bed that is nearly impossible. It is also impossible to make any headway on it whatsoever for more than one night in a row.

  30. People who don't get enough sleep can be surprised at how much better days can be if they do manage to get more sleep.

  31. Thank you for the BLOG! My husband and I have 5 children, 4 diagnosed with AD/HD. Additionally, I have been treated for a condition which can mimic AD/HD, called Adrenal Fatigue. This has enabled me to stop taking AD/HD meds.

    Sleep disturbances (waking several hours during the night), fatigue, memory, stimulant cravings (sugar/chocolate, caffeine, etc.) and mental fog have been the most troublesome symptoms for me.

    There is a book called "Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome" that has more info than anything else I've seen. The author's web site is www.adrenalfatigue.org.

    Like many hormonal issues, it is on the cutting edge of medical knowledge, so finding a knowledgeable practitioner to treat it is the key.

    This is how I found a provider. I would suggest searching by your state. http://www.diagnostechs.com/

  32. Rozerem sleep medication has been amazing for me. It's a melantonin agonist? (whatever that means) but works like melantonin does. I take it about a half hour before I am "supposed" to go to bed, & if I resist starting something new on the internet, I am ready to fall asleep. But the main thing it has done for me is to help with being a light sleeper (apparently very common for ADHD), and for the first time in my life, I don't wake up at every sound during the night.

    I am not recommending Rozerem, only sharing my experience. It was my psychiatrist's idea and I prefer a professional deciding these things for me, so anyone reading this should do the same.

    Also for oppositional issues (which for me was my husband nagging me about bedtime--immediately made me want to stay up later!) it has helped for him to understand the circadian rhythm/biological reasons. He has also agreed to commit to turning off the tv at least an 1-1/2 before bedtime & not give in to my impulse to keep watching.

  33. Here is some food for thought: Does sleep deprivation cause ADHD-like symptoms? Which came first, the ADHD or the Sleep Problems?

    I was taking Adderall XR during the day, and when I told my doctor I was having sleep problems, he prescribed another medication to help me sleep. It helped me A LOT because then I was much more productive during the day with a good night's rest. (However, I was very groggy in the morning--side effects...)

    After reading the comments about estrogen and their affect on our attention, I have to say that I most certainly agree--when my hormones change before ovulation and before my cycle begins, I have much more inattentive, distracted, and disorganized tendencies than usual. I also have no energy or stamina for completing tasks during those times. Argh!

  34. Hi, just wanted to say thank you for writing this. I read it at exactly the right time. I was trying to get my ADD husband to pack for a trip, which we had to get up early for the next morning. He PROMISED me he would pack and get to bed early. But every time I turned around, he was emailing, watching TV, paying guitar...everything BUT packing. Finally, at midnight, I lost my temper, triggering, of course, the "ADD oppositionality" that you so beautifully describe.

    After the fight, neither of us could sleep, and we almost missed our flight the next morning. Reading this made me remember that it's not me, it's his ADD. I get so angry with him when he won't come to bed, and I know I need to let that go and not take it personally. It's hard, though, because it really does have an effect on my day the next day when he's up until 3 a.m.!

  35. As I reach 65, and a deeper understanding of ADHD (which I only really began to understand in my 50's) I also realize how the ADHD leads to depression at this age. When I was younger, maybe up to my mid or late 50's, I felt like I have enough time to do everything. Now the unavoidable reality that time is limited. I can't do everything. Those feelings lead to panic and dabbling even more, and then settle into depression or melancholy that in fact all those schemes and dreams, all those to do lists and projects started up won't happen.

    The only time I have ever stepped past those feelings has been when I seriously hyperventilated. Following the major episodes of hyperventilating I would find myself completely calm for a few hours. Everyone around me would notice it also. But that chemical change disappeared eventually.

    The other time I reached that "easy" space was after a major operation when I was on Vicodin for 12 weeks, becoming completely and fully addicted - but loving every minute of the calm time. Plus my family really enjoyed the change until they realized it was from the addiction to Vicodin. We all agreed I had to get off the drug, but I admit I did so reluctantly.

    Thanks for the blog - and also for all the comments from folks.

  36. If it weren't for nervous energy, I wouldn't have any energy at all! The middle of the night is when there are the least interruptions! Night owls unite!

    1. (Sorry my english isn't so good because I am french)The only moment where I can be productive is during the night. Not because there isn't any interruptions but because of a chemical ? that is driggered in my brain when I don't sleep during the night. Otherwise..nothing during the day when if fact I had a good night sleep, meaning I have no concentration whatsoever to produce unless I am stressed (kind of at the very last minute- last call- or even past that delay). I am a champion in disapointing people about promisses not fufilled, etc.etc... Night owls unite!:)
      Micheline mproustienne@yahoo.ca

  37. This is so on point for me. I keep feeling like if I can just get a little more done, dig deeper into the pile of work and make it all go away that 'someday' I'll sleep or at least relax. I have major trouble accepting that I will 'always' be behind with a trail of projects that just won't ever go away. I call it 'someday' syndrome. "Someday, when things are less busy, I'll take care of my body, work out and fix this weight issue." "Someday, when I've caught up on all the debt, I'd like to buy {insert whatever here}." "Someday, when my degree is finished and these major projects calm down, I'll organize my eight desktops..."

    Someday, I'll get the willpower to just do what I need to do...

    Great blog. This diagnosis has been a mixed blessing. I feel I understand why I've always been 'different' but can't yet see a way to integrate with people around me. It's a lonely place to be.

    Going to bed now... Really. I think. Maybe. Maybe I should just type a few more words...

  38. Excellent information. DH agreed to listen to article; he DOES NOT read these things himself, but will listen when the time is right. Claimed he is NOT oppositional about sleep or anything else (LOL!), but conceded that perhaps he actually is when I reminded him of our conversation at 8pm this evening about perhaps not beginning to prune the trumpet vine outside. I knew it would delay the "getting ready for bed rituals" he must go through, and he insisted he had plenty of time to prune the vine. I suggested when I do point out issues like that, perhaps he can work on translating my words into something that is his choice- for instance, "I choose to get ready for bed now so I can get the sleep I need instead of pruning the trumpet vine." He knows he needs the sleep, wants to get the sleep, but hasn't been able to get to bed at a reasonable hour. For years he has claimed it has been my fault that he does not get to bed on time. Thanks for the reality check!

  39. Wow, this sounds really corny but my eyes are misting up reading all these comments.

    Not ONE has said, "There's no such thing as ADHD" and "You just have to buckle down."

    Ah.....a little blog of sanity. Unite! We have nothing to lose but those pesky naysayers! :-)

    Thanks all!

  40. The thing that stood out the most in your entire post was this quote:
    "I've blamed a lot of people in my life for my troubles, but when it comes down to it, I finally realize that I am my own worst enemy. For forty years, I've not only opposed what other people want me to do, I've opposed what I want to do."
    So the question is, what'st he trick to coming to that realization in fewer than 40 years? As the parent of a teenager with ADHD who refuses meds and therapy and anything that might help her, I'm desperate to know.
    Maybe you could do an entire blog post on this topic!

    Thanks for all the good info you get out there.

  41. My husband has ADHD. It's clear. He has the same inattentivness as our 11-yr-old son. Our son, though, takes a small dose of Adderall and has been seeing a psychiatrist for two years for behavior management; how to socialize properly, how to be more aware of the way you feel about others as well as how others feel about you, how to discipline yourself to say and do the appropriate things in a group, etc. My son is doing great! My husband, on the other hand, works-out for triathlons, golfs, plays Bridge, and in the evenings 'hits the recliner' upon his arrival. In the recliner he has his comuter to catch up on Arabic soap operas (5 of them!), plays Arabic music or works crosswords AND watches ESPN (unless I insist it is my turn). Overstimulation keeps him away from doing things with the kids, from conversing with me, from any and ALL responsibilities around the house and yard -- and gets upset when I mention things are being neglected (since there are only so many 'hats' I can wear in life). He doesn't sleep well! He has these subtle ticks that make his body jerk throughout the night and, of course, wakes me up every single time. He acts like he is asleep and I think he IS but I believe R.E.M sleep is far and few between. I'm amazed at his ability to focus on the things that HE chooses for stimulation and how weak he is when it comes to participating in a marriage relationship with me. I know he doesn't have another woman -- he doesn't need one -- he has himself and that's exhausting in itself. In bed, he lasts for about 1.5 minutes and is done. Well, except for those few times he is actually aware that I am with him and he uses his hand for the 'intimacy.' He says he would have sex every night if I would too -- my translation is that he would like to have a moment of intimacy with me until he is done and then go to sleep. After 18 yrs of this, I tend to stay away from the intimate moments b/c I am left feeling unloved, used, and feeling that I am not attractive- hard bodied- or whatever- enough for him. Yet, in my mind, b/c I understand ADHD and have dealt with it w/our son for 6 years. With the psychiatrist's help I have grown to understand the symptoms enough to know the depth of its symptoms with relationships. So, the reason for 18 years of feeling sexually neglected is b/c I understand that he feels loved totally different than I do and I know that I cannot expect anything that he is unable to give. BUT -- when our 11 yr old was diagnosed (at 5 yrs old) he made a quick comment, "He probably got it from me." Since then, he has not admitted this EVEN ONCE! He refuses to be tested and/or consider medications to make him focus better b/c he feels (whether he may be bored or not) life is pretty good the way it is (in his opinion) so why create 'waves.' It is terribly hurtful that he will not consider the possibility of our relationship and/or sex life to be better by proper treatment. Why should he? He's okay w/life the way it is -- even though a bit boring. I try not to feel lonely but when one is in a marriage relationship it is difficult to not NEED some conversation, friendship, and enjoyment from simply being together with him and feeling he is attentive to my feelings, opinions, and/or abilities. It is hard -- everyone else's husbands are so friendly and complimentary with the things I do for our neighborhood and the volunteering I do at the school and with the soccer team (organizing, working w/websites, communications) but my own husband is unwilling to even make mention of what a great job I'm doing -- kind of sad. I will continue to hope someone will come along, that he respects, to move him into a position of awareness and desire to seek assistance. It certainly doesn't seem it will come from me since that would mean I am smarter than him. Geesh!

  42. Light bulb! My son was diagnosed 1 1/2 years ago and I've been reading things for helping him. This topic explains some of my behaviors - doing things till later than I intend and not getting into bed, distractions preventing me from intimacy, etc. Things I never could come up for a reason for when asked by my husband. I'm ADHD! This will definatly help my and my husband discuss some issues! Thanks!!!!

  43. so where did those sheets come from? i am going to attempt to read the article but really want some twister sheets! I think I should take my ritalin? can anyone relate to me?

  44. Boy, I appreciate some of the things written here.

    I have been learning about ADHD for 5 year or so, and have determined that I clearly suffer from this condition. I've read a small stack of books and been through a few different mental health practitioners looking for a good one in this area. For all that, I was not particularly aware of this "infamous ADHD oppositionality" you mention.

    But it sure would explain a lot of my behavior- like why I stay up really late whenever I can, working on little chores and personal projects, or maybe tracking half a dozen different news feeds, blogs, chatgroups, YouTube streams, social networking, etc on my computer just trying to get my mind around what's going on in the world.

    I generally assumed that my tendencies to be oppositional were a lingering product of being a strong-willed, anti-establishment punk who grew up with pretty strict, restrictive parents. Which has left me feeling that it's some kind of residual adolescent behavior that a more mature man would have grown out of by my mid-40s (kick self here).

    But oppositionality as a well known consequence of ADHD? I'd like to hear more detailed explanations of how that might work. My wife says i treat time itself like a personal adversary that is constantly beating me up (or else I constantly beat myself up for faiing to get more done in every day because of my anxiety at the sensation of time passing). I have a constant sense of foreboding that time is ticking by and life is short and there is so much to do, but in fact I do not use my time nearly as well as I could. I procrastinate. When I stay up late, I think one thing I might be doing is just trying to grab some much needed unstructured time out of a very structured day full of commitments to other people that demand my constant scurrying from one task to the next whether I'm done with the current one or not (the famous ADHD difficulty with endings and transitions I am very familiar with).

    The way my schedule is, I can wake up at 5:30am and know that I am already late and have let somebody down before I even get out of bed. I should have hopped up at five and been walking out the door by 5:30. But it's hard to do when I was up until 2:00am, (or 3:00am, heaven help me...) trying to decompress from the previous day and stealing my own sleep from myself for reasons that are difficult to understand and even harder to change.

    My wife, by the way, like to go to sleep early (that would be something of an issue ADHD or no). Each night I feel that I have to choose between trying to get a few more worthwhile things done that just will never ever ever happen if I don't do them between 9:00 and midnight eves (because that's all the time there is after everything else is done) and answering my wife's call to, "Please come to bed with me honey..." And I want to go to bed with her! But sometimes I struggle for breath as I anxiously contemplate all the things competing for my time and mourn the possibility of them never getting done.

    My near constant refrain is, "There just aren't enough hours in the day..."

    I don't know if Adderall or some other ADHD drug might help with all of this, but I'll find out soon. Odd to think that I might actually get better sleep as a result of taking stimulants originally developed to help people stay awake, or become less edgy by taking drugs that amp most people up. Some aspects of ADHD are like going through the looking glass, I guess.

  45. Wonderful comments, everyone! I will try to address some of the questions in future posts.

    Meanwhile, I could not agree more with Surfer Bob: "Some aspects of ADHD are like going through the looking glass, I guess."

    Take everything you think you know, turn it upside down and inside out, and you've got your ways to understand and deal with ADHD. ;-)

    Which is probably why much of the public can't wrap its collective mind around it.

    Gina Pera

  46. I often have a difficult time falling asleep or even just taking a break for some quiet time as I am easily distracted by the sounds around me. It could be the dishwasher running downstairs, the hot water running through the pipes in our baseboard heaters, the furnace kicking on in the basement (2 floors below), or one of our kids getting up to use the bathroom. It could be even more maddening, like my husband who was lucky enough to fall asleep first, or back to sleep after the kids come into our room at 5:00am asking what's for breakfast, and he is now snoring loudly only inches from my ear! I have found that a white noise/nature sounds machines or alarm clocks that we use to help our children fall asleep is great for me too! It works wonders at drowning out the sounds that are both inches away and floors below, allowing me to either enjoy a quiet moment, drift off to sleep at night, or back to sleep if needed. I hope this info. helps someone else rest more easily too!

  47. I am absolutely blown away. EVERYTHING I read here is ME. It explains so much. Thank you for addressing adult ADHD so... intimately:) For once, I truly understand myself. I've sent my husband this article. I think it'll help him understand me too! Adults w/ ADHD often feel different & 'alone' and greatly need support. It's about time!

  48. Like always..I have to "See it" before I become aware of it. I have been this way all my life(as long back that I can remember)in regards to sleep. I never have any trouble falling asleep..but..I feel like I am losing the moments of "Free time" I have away from the world,so to speak.

    Something I say alot is:"There are just not enough hours in the day". I need to find what I am searching for, in my mind. There is something I must do,or think about(it's hard to explain). But if I lay down, I will fall asleep and lose the time I need to enjoy my "Free time".

    Just by reading this post/comments, I "See" there may be a reason I am that way. Guess what...I need to find "Free time" to analyize this, and solve the puzzle(chuckle). It's funny,but it's true. Does this make any sense? Or is it just me?


  49. We're in couples therapy and recently had a discussion about sleep patterns with our therapist. DH has blamed me for 8 years that he doesn't get enough sleep. Therapist asked him to record several things in a journal each night: what time he started to get ready for bed, what time he got to bed, and what time he fell asleep. DH did this for a week and therapist noticed he takes a long time between deciding to go to bed and actually getting to bed. (He has a huge list of "one more things" which will never get done.) During this whole time, I just went to bed when I was ready- HOURS before he ever got there. Therapist instructed me to not get involved in monitoring, complaining, discussing, anything...

    Well, one night the poop hit the fan, as they say, and I asked DH to sleep elsewhere. He stopped writing in his journal that night, unbeknownst to me. Last time we met with therapist, this was mentioned but never explored. As therapist is admittedly unfamiliar with AD/HD issues, I will put this one back on the table next week when we meet again. So typical of DH to agree to something, get bored/pissed off/ defensive/?, and decide without discussion with anyone involved in the agreement that he is DONE. (BTW: we are currently exploring who to see specifically for an AD/HD evaluation with referrals from therapist and DH's MD.)

    Anyway, part of therapists' observations after asking me what it is like sleeping in the same bed with DH led to conclusion that he may have sleep apnea. We are going for a consultation next week, and then they will hook him up and take a peek at what I've put up with for the last 8 years. I've been sleep deprived! I sleep just fine when he is not in the same bed and/or house. I dream when he is gone. So, long story short, of course he is not rested; he isn't getting enough oxygen when he is laying next to me snoring like a freight train. I have "anger issues." No shit. You go without sleep for 8 years and tell me how perky you feel, doc.

    I would guess every one of us has a different story to tell about sleep issues. It is part of the whole picture of AD/HD.

    I hate the weekend routines in our house: stay up late, sleep in late, don't do anything pleasant together. It sucks. I have had to develop my own routines that do not involve DH. I actually enjoy my own company. It still feels like I've got an anchor chained to my neck, though. I look forward to having an opportunity to laying this all out for someone who knows something about AD/HD relatively soon.

    I know what I know. This way of life is not functional; it is a reflection of the disorder in DH's brain. He has been doing this for 56 years, raised by a parent who probably also has undiagnosed AD/HD. His whole family "functions" like this, so he doesn't even know what the possibilities are for a reasonably normal routine where household chores get done and there is time for having fun together.

    So, it's tough to not have a partner when these sleep issues become unmanageable. For me, I've stopped being involved in his craziness. The source of the problem cannot become clear when I am stirring up the water, so to speak, with my complaints. I have had to really pull back and let the chips fall where they may... like right in his lap. It is getting better, but it may get worse for a while. That is a necessary part of the awareness process.

  50. Wonderful, informative blog! Thanks for touching on issues that are often overlooked.

    We have had good results with Melatonin which is over the counter. It does not seem to take much. We've been able to use 1/2 mg (1/2 of 1 mg tablet cut in half). Benadryl has had a similar effect. As always, check with a dr before starting anything to make sure it will not conflict with current meds, etc.

  51. Thanks to all for chiming in. I've learned so much.

    Karen, I must say.....that is THE cutest baby picture! :-)

  52. This certainly won't be the case for everyone, but, here's hoping this might save someone a lot of problems...

    If you have historically had a lot of problems with sleep or exhaustion, and were diagnosed/suspect ADD, please consider that a sleep disorder called Narcolepsy has a lot in common with ADD (so much so that some of the meds are the same, but amounts and other/additional meds may vary).

    Please see an MD to make sure, especially if you find yourself needing naps, or moving around to avoid inactivity that may lead to zoning out or sleeping, or if you have difficulty staying asleep once asleep at night.

    Many people with Narcolepsy were first diagnosed with ADD (particularly ADD w/out the H). If you look up Narcolepsy, yes, there are other associated symptoms, but not everyone has all of them (at first, or ever sometimes) and it may present only with things that look very much like ADD and sleepiness.

    Wishing you all good health and happiness :)

  53. I completely resonate with Jeff in this post. I fight my boyfriend every night to come to bed with me at a decent hour, between 10-10:30 every night. But, instead of accepting that he's just as exhausted as I am and needs rest (even more so than I do since he works so much and gets very little sleep!), he'll opt to stay up and watch T.V. or surf the internet (the computer's in our bedroom, so you can imagine how fun that must be for me, the girl who's an incredibly light sleeper).

    I've had the same feelings as Jeff. I've thought, "Well, I'm just not interesting to him"; "He doesn't enjoy being together and falling asleep with one another"; "He's just so distant, I'm not sure he even loves me." All of these thoughts have crossed my mind. I've even wondered if he might have an affair later down the line because I'm of so little interest to him.

    Luckily, I've had a strong feeling he had ADHD since a couple of months into the relationship. I was aware of a lot of the symptoms because I'd gone through this with my best friend. Still, in a relationship those symptoms made everything much more vividly painful.

    Though my boyfriend now admits repeatedly that he has ADHD, he refuses to go in and get formally diagnosed or get help. Instead, he uses ADHD as an excuse now. Any time he does something incredibly frustrating or inconsiderate towards me he says, "Baby, I have ADHD, I can't help it." I completely understand this, but it doesn't seem right not to care enough about my feelings to get help for it.

    And so, being a light sleeper, I suffer the long sleepless nights of hoping he'll get to bed. The first year of our relationship I constantly felt restless and without sleep, which of course added to my limited patience, thereby aggravating the hot spots in our relationship that were due to his ADHD.

    Anyhow, I'm venting. The gist is, I completely resonate with this post, and every other post for that matter. Thank you so much for writing this. Please continue to do so and with more frequency, I eat it right up!

  54. This just in: a bar of soap under the bedsheets can help with restless legs syndrome?

    I know. it sounds crazy! But in the online discussion group for the partners of adults with ADHD, that is a current topic.

    I've searched for explanations on the Internet, and no one seems to know why it works, but it does seem to work for some people.

    I'm wondering, though, if some giving testimony are confusing "leg cramps" with "restless legs syndrome."

    At any rate, it sounds like a strategy that at least can't hurt you.

    Here is the technique: Unwrap a bar of soap. Put it under your bedsheet, near where your feet will be.

    You can read more here:

    Have you tried this? Did it work for you?

  55. e-mail subscription now available!

    To those who requested it, sorry it took me so long to figure out how to implement it.

    To sign up for notification of new posts by e-mail, just visit the site and look for the box in the upper-right.


    Thanks for your patience!

  56. This TOTALLY speaks to me. Thanks!

  57. I find I can't sleep when my spouse is out of town for business. I know I should get sleep but it just doesn't happen when the hubby is gone. I obsessively read articles on the internet and listen to music. When he is at home, I usually get to bed by 11 p.m. but I still struggle. It is difficult to "turn off" my brain. Good thing dear husband is a heavy sleeper and can sleep with the lights on...

  58. I am a bit floored. Just last night, while I struggled to get up enough energy to bathe my two small sons, I realized that I should go straight to bed as soon as they laid down. My husband concurred. I have been feeling super sick for three days now and have yet to get to sleep before 1 am each night. My husband gets so angry at me and doesn't understand why I can't get to bed. I feel like I never have enough time or energy in the day to get things done so I start doing them after the boys go to sleep. I've always had a hard time falling asleep at a decent hour and could never wake up early and feel 'good' about it. That's why I work nights.
    I don't know if I have adult adhd or not, but it is sure worth looking into. I can see my sleeplessness causing issues between my husband and I already. I say I'm going to bed and two hours later he comes into the room and I'm at the computer or writing in my journal or folding laundry I hadn't gotten done earlier.
    I wish I could find out who the anonymous poster was who wrote this above: "ADD women of all ages can benefit by planning their activities, strategies, relaxation techniques, requests for support and sometimes medications (with help from appropriate specialists) with the estrogen factor in mind."
    It rings very true for me and I've always wondered if my huge mood swings and depressive spells had to do with hormones. My mother suffers from them too.
    Thank you so much for this blog. I am now off to do more research on ADHD for adults. I hope it doesn't keep me up tonight! ;)

  59. Hi Jess,

    There are certainly some red flags for ADHD in your story. Worth checking out!

    As for the quote from anonymous, check out Dr. Patricia Quinn's book Understanding Women with ADHD (and other information at the website) http://www.addvance.com/bookstore/women.html#women

    Some women who don't know they have ADHD turn to estrogen to improve cognitive functioning, but this is something to be considered very carefully given the risks. Sometimes, treating the ADHD itself means women can avoid the hormones entirely. Sometimes it is a combination of both.

    Dr. Quinn is the best source for this information. I think she's posted some articles on their website.

    Don't stay up all night researching! :-)


  60. P.S. Just to be clear, though......those "mood swings" might have nothing to do with hormones. A common manifestation of ADHD is "emotional dysregulation."

    For some women, they experience great challenges with emotional regulation around their periods, when estrogen drops. That's why some experts recommend increasing the stimulant medication dosage at such times -- because hormones affect brain function.

  61. Wow! So reassuring to see so many people out there with similar 'foibles'! I'm 43 and mother of 2 boys 3yrs&5yrs and am right in the middle of ovulation which I have been journaling on my calendar for the last six months (started meds for adhd 2mths ago) and have noticed a real dip in my energy levels and a real lack of self worth around this time. It's been really helpful to hear other 'adders' experiences on the hormonal front. Also had not heard anything on 'oppositionality'! Great 'food for thought' Cheeerz cj

  62. Oh my--sleep avoidance too! The year I turned 51 I was browsing in my favorite place, a huge bookstore when a title riveted me in my tracks, "Driven to Distraction". I read the jacket, hastily purchased, went home and read the first chapter. At the end of that, I was in tears.I found a description for what I was all my life, and why I felt different from everyone else. But I didn't know that I also had this "sleep opposition", only that I can't stand to turn the day off. Such a waste, I've always thought.

    Thank you (I think!) for letting me know it's just one more ADD trait, another part of the zany profile. I've been trying to talk myself into shutting down this computer and get to bed for the past hour or so........
    Now I know I have company! And, BTW, I am now a doggone senior citizen with ADD!

  63. I need help!!!!!!!!!!! I'm 28 years old with 2 years of marriage my husband has ADHD, I didn't know was that bad, right now I'm so tired I feel that I hate him I don't want to be near him I feel horrible saying this but it's true. He's 38 years old do not have a job goes to school does horrible I am a hard worker going to school also having this kind of person next to me I cannot handle it, I just want help. I really love him but I don't know how long I cant stay this way. PLEASE HELP ME.........

  64. Hi Anonymous,

    Help comes in the form of information. Sounds like you could use a solid education in what you both are dealing with, if in fact your husband has ADHD. It all starts with education -- about ADHD symptoms and treatment strategies.

    You'll find plenty of help, in the form of information, on this blog and at the National Resource Center for ADHD. http;//www.help4adhd.org


  65. Is there anyone who has had success whether thru meds or therapy with battling the "sleep opposition" component of ADHD? My son is battling this now and it is ruining his daily schedule every day. If he makes it to a 3pm class it is a wonder!My other son and husband have ADHD and we are wondering if this could be his problem too. But if it is...now what? Will meds help with sleep? They usually wear off just when he has to get himself into bed!

  66. HI there,

    This is a big topic. You can read some of the comments above; perhaps you will find useful information.

    Also, I wrote an article on ADHD and sleep in the December issue of CHADD's Attention magazine. CHADD members receive hardcopy issues in the mail and can also access the online archive.

    You can learn more about CHADD membership here: http://www.CHADD.org

    I hope this helps.

  67. I'd like to know, what I can do now to help my 13 year old ADHD child to circumvent these problems before he becomes an adult with ADHD. Help him to find that routine so that when he gets older he'll know how to help himself!!

    Mother to a wondeful ADHD 13 year old who will have these problems...

  68. Hi there,

    By "these problems," do you mean trouble with sleep?

    What are you doing right now to help your son? What are you doing to educate yourself and him on how to maximize his abilities and minimize his challenges?

    Those are the questions I would ask.

  69. While this helps me sleep 8 hrs. I have been dizzy and light headed starting about one week after begining use. This results in a mild panic attack. NOT a good way to spend the day. I'm stopping today.

  70. i been dignosed with adhd since i was 7 when i was 18 i was checked again and i still had it im 24 now and what u said in the article sounded just like me. most nights i dont shut the computer off till midnight then i still lay there an hr i am untreated. keeping house clean and my relationship. also i see when im on my period i notice i have no problem going to sleep its when im about to have it is the worse, it takes me longer to fall asleep.

  71. Hi Chrystal,

    Women with ADHD "enjoy" an added challenge: monthly fluctuations in hormones that affect brain chemicals.

    Experts such as Dr. Patricia Quinn recommend a little extra medication at certain times of the month.

    You might also try a magnesium supplement, B vitamins, and laying off any caffeine/chocolate.

    Good luck with better sleep!

  72. Just came across this site and this blog. Wow, I don't know where to begin, but starting with this "oppositional" business, and not only with sleep, really caught my attention. Lately, though, putting off going to bed until the wee hours, has been really a challenge. Add to that the stresses of many "projects" that need to be taken care of but aren't getting done ( snowballing the whole mess), near-constant pain, especially when laying in bed, from a shoulder impingement and a sciatica flare-up, and I end up the next day like a zombie in a fog. Even when I do take my adderall and Vyvanse I still feel like I need to go back to sleep for an hour. Although I have had the bedtime avoidance for quite some time, it seems to be affecting me much more than it ever did and I'm not sure if it is the added pain factor that is not allowing me a deep-enough sleep, or perhaps the addition of my bio-identical hormones I have started taking again. I also have been taking a calcium supplement (which has magnesium, manganese, and D-3, as well), which I found to be very helpful in controlling my restless leg syndrome, and the supplement L-Trytophan before bedtime. These have always been so great for helping me get a deeper, more restful sleep.
    I was diagnosed 5 years ago at an ADD clinic, at the age of 55, as having moderate to severe ADD, as well as auditory processing disorder, depression, and anxiety. It was clear to me that I was a classic case as a child, but managed to function, albeit with a horrible lack of organizational skills and procrastination, for most of my adult life. My therapist at the clinic was surprised that I was able to go back to school in my 40's part-time, while working full-time, to finish my BS in business administration, graduating Summa cum Laude. I amazed myself. It wasn't until my 50's, when menopause set in that things really got out of control. I did several months of neuro-feedback at the clinic, which made a big difference in my depression and ability to focus, but it didn't seem to last. A couple of years ago the fog descended on me and I went on medication. I only wish someone had led me to this sight, or a good ADHD coach who could have helped me with some coping skills. Well, better late than never. I have asked my husband to stay on me about getting enough rest (which I have found really makes a difference), and staying consistent with taking my Omega 3 fatty acids supplements along with a Curcumin extract ( a form of turmeric ). I religiously take my activated Bs along with my vitamin D-3, but there seems to be much more to my recent back slide. I will stay tuned in. Thank you.

  73. I really like your blog and I'm so grateful for all the helpful information. However, I had to laugh/smirk/sigh at your last suggestion, "5. Get a good night's sleep—it will make everything easier!" If only it were that easy! Isn't the point of this post that getting a good night's sleep doesn't come naturally or easily to folks with ADHD? I know that my boyfriend would LOVE to get a good night's sleep as regularly as possible but his body and mind just won't shut down that easily. He sleep walks, sleep eats and has PMLD, all of which could be attributable to untreated ADHD or a sleep disorder or both. Unfortunately we won't know until he can afford the expensive tests and evaluations to determine what exactly is going on and how to most appropriately treat it. Until then, we will just keep on keeping on!

  74. Hi! Sleep avoidance has been plaguing my 20 yr old son for a long time (3-4 yrs). He functions well once he is awake (slight concentration problems) but when it is time to go to bed he has to pry himself away from his ipod, electronic games etc. he wants to change but the pull to stay awake at night is just so strong. He has not been diagnosed with ADHD, but it has been suggested (my husband and 9yr old have been formally diagnosed). I need some concrete suggestions? Do meds help? or are they out of the system before bedtime? He takes melatonin...but fights it. Are the ADHD clinics much more knowlegeble than other professionals in the psych field? where can I find some answers?

  75. Anonymous wrote: "I really like your blog and I'm so grateful for all the helpful information. However, I had to laugh/smirk/sigh at your last suggestion, "5. Get a good night's sleep—it will make everything easier!" If only it were that easy! Isn't the point of this post that getting a good night's sleep doesn't come naturally or easily to folks with ADHD?"

    Thank you for visiting; I'm glad you like my blog.

    As for your comment on tip number 5. Obviously I am aware that sleep is difficult for many people with ADHD; that's why I wrote the post. ;-)

    tip #5 is not as superfluous as you might think. Sometimes people with ADHD need to focus on a problem in order to solve it, to commit to actively resolving it. Otherwise, the problem can just float around and get lost in the distractibility.

    Your boyfriend's problems extend beyond typical ADHD-related challenges around sleep. Until you can afford the sleep tests, etc., you can still read up on these sleep disorders and try some "home remedies" -- perhaps including more exercise, sunlight in the morning, magnesium supplementation, cutting out caffeine and minimizing electronic-device usage, etc.

    There is much we can do to improve our health without expensive tests.

    good luck!

  76. Hi Jen,

    If you are a CHADD member, you can access the Attention magazine archives for a recent article I wrote on ADHD and sleep. (Not yet a CHADD member? You can join here: http://www.CHADD.org).

    It might be that your son is also addicted to the stimulation of these devices. This is a common complication of untreated ADHD: addiction.

    I don't know of any ADHD clinic that has an expertise in sleep. In fact, I don't know many experts on ADHD in sleep with a clinical practice; they are all researchers.

    That is why I am working on a short book on ADHD and sleep.

  77. P.S. Jen, a quick answer to your question, "Do meds help?"

    Yes, pursuing a medication strategy for ADHD can help, especially with the "opposition."

  78. Hello I was serverly abuse as a child and I belive that as a result I have adhd......are there any studies and are there any support groups out there.

    1. I can assure you that you do not have ADHD because you were abused as a child. ADHD is a complicated medical condition and just as being abused as a child will not cause you to have diabetes or cancer, it will not cause ADHD. Please seek help with a Survivor of childhood abuse group. Some of the coping strategies or defense mechanisms you have developed as a way to deal with being a survivor of child abuse may seem similar to those of ADHD on the surface but I can assure you, the abuse did not cause ADHD. I can further assure you, if you do have ADHD, it was there long before the child abuse.

  79. I have the exact same problem getting to bed as described in this blog entry. My husband has taken my slowness to head to bed personally, thinking I was trying to avoid him. I am amazed when I read things that exactly describe what I do. I was only recently diagnosed with ADHD Combined Type when I was 68. I only knew I had it when I noticed that I shared many traits with my sister in law who was diagnosed when her son was. Keep writing. We all need all the help we can get. Thank you.

  80. As an adult female with ADHD, I can say without a doubt that this article is spot on !! I am indeed my own worst enemy ! Great article :)


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