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Executive Functioning and Sleep Disorders

In this week's Attention Talk Radio podcast, coach Jeff Copper digs into ADHD and sleep disorders. Let's explore why this is so interesting.


Sleep seems like a passive behavior, but it is actually a time when the body and mind can recuperate and prepare for the next day. So, in a sense, it's an active process. Jeff Copper makes an analogy to the brain taking time to defragment and regorganize. Without sleep (for example, pulling an all-nighter), the brain doesn't have this opportunity.


Sleep is critical to proper Executive Functioning, but it also requires a degree of Executive Functioning to get to sleep. The state of going to bed is, by its nature, boring - and that is particularly challenging for those with ADHD. Furthermore, good sleep hygiene requires habits, and those habits are also boring.


For some people, sleep is really easy. But, for others, sleep is very hard. In the culture of constant stimulation, when it's hard to go to bed, it's easy to replace bed with an engaging activity. This stimulation feeds the need for dopamine. Simply knowing that there's a book to read or video games to play makes it hard to calm our brains down.


Sleeping pills are available but should be considered a last resort. They can help people get the sleep they desperately need, but it's usually not the same quality REM sleep. So, it's important to try other interventions first, including undergoing a sleep study to look for other medical issues that have potential known resolutions. It's more important to try to generate good sleep hygiene first. This includes behavioral and environmental changes. According to sleepfoundation.org, this includes:


1) Limiting daytime naps to 30 minutes.

2) Avoiding stimulants before bedtimes.

3) Exercising.

4) Avoiding foods that can be disruptive to sleep.

5) Ensuring adequate exposure to natural light.

6) Establishing a regular and relaxing bedtime routine.

7) Making sure that the sleep environment is pleasant.


Of course, these are easier said than done - especially for those with poor self-regulation. For more tips, visit sleepfoundation.org and check out this podcast episode of Attention Talk Radio.

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