Pre-bedtime activities for ADD spouse? (No, not that activity)
September 2, 2014 4:29 PM   Subscribe

My beloved partner has ADD and going to bed is a constant struggle for us. He frequently complains about being tired, and wishes he could go to sleep at a regular time, but says sleep is boring and instead will stay up for hours on the computer, saying he literally cannot stop reading the internet. If you have ADD, what are specific things you do in order to get yourself on the train to Sleepytown?

Some clarifications: This is not "How do I get my husband to sleep in bed with me" -- I would prefer him to sleep in bed with me but after a long time of taking it personally, I accepted the reality that it wasn't all about me - his brain works differently from mine and if we have different bedtimes it's not a dealbreaker!

The issue is he is going to sleep very very late and then is tired all day. If he is tired then he is more prone to ADD symptoms like not being able to unplug from work (thus staying late), etc. Cue vicious cycle. (He is seeing a doctor and taking medication for ADD which seems to work for him during the day.)

Once he's in the bathroom, brushing his teeth, etc. he's golden. It's the getting-off-the-couch-and-into-bathroom part that takes hours.

Things he has tried:
- Reading a book an hour before bedtime (he ends up getting pulled into the book and will read it until it's done, which could be hours -- OR he says the book is too boring and switches back to the internet)
- Playing a board game (no specific endpoint, plus this requires my participation and sometimes I'm busy, and plus this gets boring if it's every single night)
- TV show (this has a specific endpoint but since we watch on our computer he gets pulled into surfing the internet after)

Any tips and tricks for ADD adults beyond the usual "set a regular bedtime/only use your bedroom for sleeping" advice? Interesting-but-not-too-stimulating crafts or hobbies with a specific endpoint? I'll try anything, MeFis!
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
For some people, ADD meds induce (or exacerbate existing) insomnia. For others, it actually helps them fall asleep easier and faster. If he is the former, it might help to take it far earlier in the day. If it's the latter, he might need an increased dosage.
posted by elizardbits at 4:34 PM on September 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sorry, that comment assumes he's treating his ADD with meds! If he's not doing so, that might be something he would benefit from, but again, there's no guarantee of optimal results with any meds.
posted by elizardbits at 4:35 PM on September 2, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks elizardbits -- he is treating his ADD with meds and after a lot of adjustment has finally gotten a prescription that works for him during the day. So it could be a med thing, but he wants to test some behavior-based strategies before going back to the prescription drawing board.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 4:39 PM on September 2, 2014

I have ADHD (though am unmedicated) and have exactly the same problems getting to bed as your husband. The only thing that works for me is listening to podcasts on an iPod in bed until I fall asleep. (The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe does the trick for me.) It fulfills my need to DO THINGS! CONSUME MEDIA! BE ENTERTAINED! but I can do it in bed, in the dark, with my eyes closed, so it works well as a transitional activity between surfing the internet and sleep.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 4:41 PM on September 2, 2014 [10 favorites]

I use a timer on the light by the chair I sit in during the evening. The timer shuts off my light at bedtime, which makes it pretty hard to stay up. BUT sometimes I still will sit zoning out doing whoevenknows on the computer, which is why I also have an alarm on my phone that goes off at bedtime. A literal loud, ringing alarm that I can't ignore. I sometimes put backup alarms on an alarm clock, too, but I don't usually worry about that for bedtime, since I have some leeway there -- I mostly do that to make sure I leave at the right time in the morning. Still, it's something else that he might consider.

It's not subtle but it works.

(Though I don't have ADD, as far as I know, I just am really bad at time management and regulating focus and need hacks to get around that!).
posted by rue72 at 4:55 PM on September 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I also have this problem. A few things have helped:
- I use the Stay Focused add-on for Chrome and have it set to block everything (nuclear option) starting an hour before I want to go to bed. I take forever to get ready for bed though, so maybe 30min would be better for your husband. I also have it set to allow Hulu and Netflix, so that I can finish whatever I'm watching (or start watching something new) even if it's after 10. I also use similar add ons to completely block my secondary browsers.

-Repeating the mantra "you value sleep" to myself. It's cheesy, but it helps me remember that I like getting enough sleep, rather than it just being a boring thing that's taking me away from the shiny shiny internet.

That said, while I'm much better about going to bed at a reasonable time, I now have assn insomnia problem. Podcasts are a huge help here (I like 99% Invisible; I find the host's voice sort of soothing). I find that the ADD makes it much harder to stop my brain from latching on to a thought instead of relaxing. Having a consistent bedtime helps, because then I can rely on my body's rhythms, rather than my tiredness.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 4:58 PM on September 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have StayFocusd installed on my browsers. It's a handy ADHD tool in general, and one of the things you can do with it is set time limits for when you're allowed to access certain web sites, or conversely, you can use it in "white list" mode when you're only allowed to access a defined list of sites during the times you specify and the rest of the internet is Off Limits. There are ways to override it, but at least this takes a conscious decision and a few steps to sabotage yourself that way.

Also, I find guided meditation/visualization podcasts to be very helpful if I'm having a hard time getting my brain to slow down at night.
posted by drlith at 5:10 PM on September 2, 2014

Like your partner, I have a terrible time getting to bed at a decent hour. I too find sleep boring, although once I fall asleep, I don't want to wake up! I think his obsession with the computer is perhaps part of the problem, triggering his ADD. Sometimes I find that a warm shower will help me relax. I don't know if this is possible where you live, but can he go for a walk or run at night? That might smooth things out, too.
posted by terp at 5:27 PM on September 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Make sure the timing of the dosage of his meds leaves him a good couple of unmedicated hours before bedtime, if not longer.

And, because it takes ages to get ready for bed if you have unmedicated ADD, he should get ready for bed as quickly as he can, no later than a certain time of night. Then he'll be ready.

He has to tell himself he will at least be in bed and ready to go to sleep by a certain time, even if he can't fall asleep.

Other than that, there really ultimately is no substitute for Just Fucking Do It.

However, timing of medication dose is the thing that stands out to me, so.
posted by tel3path at 5:37 PM on September 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh and the other thing that helps me is using flux on my computer (and a similar app called twilight for my phone, although that's maybe overkill). It decreases the amount of blue light coming from your screen as it gets closer to bedtime. The blue light supposedly messes with your circadian rhythms, making it harder to fall asleep. It might be placebo effect, but I do notice a difference in my sleepiness levels and it's a nice, subtle signal that it's time to stop reading the internet and go to bed.

Also, from your question it sounds like he's got a mix of not feeling sleepy at bedtime, losing track of time/how late it is, and feeling sleepy but not wanting to go to bed. It might be helpful to figure out which of the 3 is really the driving force and what order he needs to tackle them in. I found it enormously helpful to see a CBT-style therapist for 3-4 sessions in order to help with this. Seems silly, but when you're not sleeping, your whole life falls apart, so it was definitely worth it.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 6:14 PM on September 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

Along the lines of using StayFocusd or Leechblock: it makes me feel ridiculous, but what I do on my windows PC is set parental controls to lock me out of my account at midnight. Of course I am an administrator and can circumvent this if I really want to, but it's often the prompt I need to shut down the computer and go to bed at a sensible hour.
posted by col_pogo at 6:15 PM on September 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm married to someone like that. I just moved upstairs, because he was disturbing my sleep when he came to bed so late. He didn't want to change, and now I sleep great. Problem solved.

Sounds like your husband wants to change this? If not, don't help. My opinion: he has to want to do this.

If he wants to do this on his own, he likely will want one of the blocker programs recommended. In my experience, someone with ADD just does not have this ability to stop what they are doing and stand up once they are doing internet. They get lost in there.

If he wants your help with this, you can try these ideas:

(Note: this stuff always feels way too codependent for me, though it was recommended to me on a mailing list for people with spouses who have ADHD/ADD.)

At a set time, if he has not started brushing teeth, etc, you can go in, touch him on the arm or similar, and say "Time for bed now." and stand there until he gets up and comes with you to brush teeth, etc. No "just a minute" or "one second" or "One more email." Don't leave until he leaves with you.

Ditto for watching TV - if you're watching on the computer, you turn the computer off (or equivalent) and say "Time for bed!" and that's it - he comes with you.

"solo board games" - Google is your friend. :) Be aware solo games, when you lose, make you want to try again... same loop as internet trap! ;)
posted by AllieTessKipp at 6:49 PM on September 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sorry, missed the part about not caring about separate bed times. Obviously you can't offer help if he's staying up late and you're not.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 6:51 PM on September 2, 2014

What you describe -- meds work well during the day, tired but can't sleep -- *really* sounds like looking at your partner's dosage and timing could be worth the effort. Depending on what he's taking, he might have options other than completely switching meds.
posted by gnomeloaf at 6:53 PM on September 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by sammyo at 8:21 PM on September 2, 2014

It took me quite a while to realize how very much better I feel when I go to bed at a reasonable time, and get up at the same time every day. I have ADD, and others I know with ADD suffer from not getting enough sleep.

  • No caffeine after 2 pm if I want to sleep by 11 or 12.
  • Benadryl (dyphenhydrazine) is a sleep aid. Consult the doctor about using it or another sleep aid.
  • I set my phone alarm for 8 am every day. I usually wake before it goes off, but it helps to have the alarm, as I am chronologically impaired. I charge the phone on the outlet at my bedside table.
  • I have, at times, set alarms at 10 pm and at midnight, as reminders of the time, and hint to go to bed.
  • If my brain is racing, which it often is, I go to sleep with Netflix or a podcast, usually on the laptop, but sometimes on the phone. Currently watching Law & Order. If I'm not actually tired, I watch an episode or 2, but mostly it keeps my mind just occupied enough to not obsess about difficult topics, but not so exciting I am compelled to watch. Low volume. I'm usually asleep in 10 minutes.
  • I can't stress enough the importance of truly understanding the health benefits and genuine life improvement of getting adequate sleep. I know so many people who don't get enough sleep, believing that 5 or 6 hours is adequate, believing they can stay up late and still be productive and a nice person the next day. Nope, they're unorganized and cranky, and rely on lots of caffeine.

  • posted by theora55 at 8:47 PM on September 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

    This has the potential to set up a really bad dynamic, depending on your relationship, but: my mom has ADHD and has trouble going to bed and a few times she asked if I would basically follow her around and make sure she goes to sleep. I sort of acted as her executive function, re-directing her when she got distracted from getting-ready-for-bed stuff. I stopped doing it because, yeah, awkward dynamic it created, and in our case it was a lot of work. But it worked.
    posted by needs more cowbell at 9:57 PM on September 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

    I think consulting a sleep clinic would not be out of line. I need to set up an appointment myself, but I suffer from really terrible insomnia as well and a lot of the same symptoms of just plain not wanting to go to bed. Nobody in my case has been sure if my symptoms are from ADHD or anxiety/trauma, but I can definitely tell you that Adderall just amped up my anxiety and made my insomnia worse.

    Most suggestions that are likely to help require a lot of willpower, require wanting to change, which is the tricky part. Listening to a podcast in the dark is a good idea. I also like putting on white noise from either a website or white noise machine.

    But I really would suggest a sleep study. He could have a delayed sleep cycle (as in, he is "naturally' a night owl) or something, and they should be able to see how active his brain is around sleepytime.

    Finally, I've tried tons of prescriptions for sleep, and right now trazodone gets my vote. It was developed as an antidepressant named Desryl, but it is almost exclusively used for sleep these days. Doesn't make you feel kooky like Ambien or Sonata or some of those meds that gave me aural hallucinations, and also won't wipe you out for days like Seroquel. I don't know if he'd be open to a sleep med, but it could be worth having something on hand.
    posted by mermaidcafe at 10:57 PM on September 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

    Slightly strange suggestion: paper and pencil puzzles like crosswords and sudoku. You can buy great big books of them and keep them by your bedside.

    My mother in particular loves quote acrostics, but depending on your SO's skillset he might like a different kind of puzzle or a big variety (they also make variety puzzle books so you can really change it up.) The goal would be to do one to completion, so there would be an adjustment period where he's figuring out the difficulty level that would engage him but be solvable. And of course as he does more he'll get more skilled and need harder puzzles or to switch types.

    The upsides of these are: no screen light, no need to save anything/no fear of lost or wasted progress, there's almost none of the "you've lost! play again?" of single player games, and if he's got the right kind of mind, the urge to solve a puzzle is a big enough pull to get you up off the couch, as long as the puzzles are always kept by the bed.
    posted by Mizu at 12:50 AM on September 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

    I take melatonin when it starts to get dark. It makes me feel like sleep is pleasant rather than boring.
    posted by sucky_poppet at 5:46 AM on September 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

    When I was single, I watched TV in bed as a way to transition to sleep but, my wife can't sleep with a TV on. Now I load up a queue of intereseting podcasts, stick in an earbud, and listen my way to sleep. Sometimes I put BBC4Extra on TuneIn and listen to that instead. Or an audiobook.

    I still have to tear myself away from whatever was engaging me right before bed, but the transition is a lot easier. I'm not stuck with all the static that buzzes through my head when I lay in the dark.
    posted by the christopher hundreds at 6:55 AM on September 3, 2014

    I use podcasts too - what puts me off coming to bed is the idea of lying in bed bored. Podcasts fix that, plus radio 4 talking things have a white noise effect so I am generally off to sleep within 10mins of the light going off (not the case with surfing the internet).

    Obviously I have to get into bed in the first place; my husband just has to nag me about that unfortunately.
    posted by tinkletown at 10:41 AM on September 3, 2014

    My dad has this problem and he puts the wifi router on a christmas timer to shut off at 12PM every night.
    posted by bbqturtle at 11:36 AM on September 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

    Could you just confirm that the problem is that he can't go to BED, not that he can't sleep?
    I.e. ADHD procrastination, not Insomnia?

    I mean, from my read, it sounds like he zonks out once he actually hits the bed, it's the getting to bed that's the problem (hi me!).

    Breaking the cycle Tactic:
    I do this less when I'm not tired. Ironic, yes, but you'll already have noticed this. Therefore, you could really focus on two nights a week where you HAVE to get lots of sleep (aka recovery nights), to break out of the downward spiral.
    So, for me, at one point, I slept in on the weekends, and then on Wednesday night, was my Very Early To Bed night, so that Thursday and Friday weren't a horrorshow. I found I couldn't really get to sleep within 2 hours of my normal bedtime (this is backed up by circadian rhythm vs sleepiness studies), so, I went to sleep more than 2 hours earlier. Got home, ate a really simple dinner, and had what felt like a midweek sleepin.
    Which was actually pretty great.

    Mental reframe:
    How does he feel in the morning? 5 more minutes, right?
    What about those mornings when it turns out you can just turn off the alarm and go back to sleep (maybe because it's a holiday, alarm screwed up, whatever) - it's just GLORIOUS, isn't it?
    Sleep is luxurious, Sleep is decadent, Sleep mysteriously makes the following day a not-horrible day.

    Set internet blockers, and alarms for bedtime:
    It's actually just another form of procrastination. Don't wait to 'feel sleepy' because you'll lie to yourself, just deal with it however you usually have to deal with deadlines and procrastination.

    What is my Meaning in Life tactic:
    For me, not going to bed isn't because of sleep, it's because I don't want to get up and go to work tomorrow.
    It's because I'm tired, stressed, and have this nagging sense that there is something else I need to do that day, unfortunately that 'ToDo' is actually:
    Find some Meaning for your Life!
    It's existential ennui, wrapped up in procrastination.
    And I have the stupid idea stuck in my brain that I might somehow find that meaning if I just keep surfing the internet. (REALLY - just block the internet in some way - it is the Mind Killer).
    Anyway, finding something meaningful can actually... satisfy that urge.
    Finding a less than 15 minute activity that can actually fulfill that urge is a bit hard, but actually far easier when you're not choosing it late at night when you are tired. Have a short list of pre-decided activities, that you're allowed to do before bed. Internet is not one of them. Something that is advancing a skill for me, does it for me. So sketching something, doing a duolingo language lesson, or picking up a guitar and noodling for 10 minutes actually feels satisfying. Like I achieved something for the day. Then I can go to sleep.

    Getting Someone to Tell Me to Go To Sleep tactic:
    Only works if other night owls are up. When I'm tired, I lose decision making and internal motivation. I can still follow instructions ok.
    I wander up to Person A, and say, "A, tell me to go to bed?"
    "Go to bed Elysum"
    And then I go to bed. It's not nagging, because I go ask the person to tell me to do it, but somehow it breaks through my last bit of resistance/procrastination.

    Practical suggestion:
    Turn internet off on laptop BEFORE you start watching a tv show.

    Finally, if he is asking for these suggestions, that's great!
    If you are asking for him - then, nope. He has to want to change.
    So, if we're on the alternate reality where he only complains to you about it (ignore if this isn't the case) - it's ok, you are not obliged to provide emotional sympathy for self-inflicted grumpiness.
    If he has trouble waking up in the morning, do remind him that he thinks sleep is boring, and doesn't want to sleep, and morning is a great time to have that exact attitude! I honestly just didn't/don't notice such contradictions, and it helped me to remember that morning-self and that attitude to sleep at bedtime.
    When he's tired, it's not actually fair to complain to you about something you can't change and would LIKE to help him with. "Yes, I know you're tired, but there's nothing I can do about it. You know if there's anything you want me to assist with to support you in getting more sleep, I'll help."
    posted by Elysum at 3:16 PM on September 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

    I have this problem and to be perfectly honest, sometimes the only thing that works for me is my partner turning the lights out around me and saying, "Oh, what's that sound? That rattling noise of many limbs and tentacles? Could it be the Spooky Cat approaching?" I then have to run into the bedroom before the Spooky Cat gets me. I am thirty years old. It was very lucky for our sleep cycles that this eldritch horror took up residence in our home.

    The Spooky Cat does not visit us every night, and to be honest both of us have our ups and downs when it comes to getting into bed and sleeping. (We should probably be doing that right now; thanks for the reminder.) But I have not found a better motivator so far, I'm afraid to say.
    posted by daisyk at 1:10 PM on September 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

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