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ADHD & POOR SLEEP? IT’S ALMOST UNIVERSAL
My wife and I attended two large ADHD conferences that were about a month apart, and were were able to interview some great experts. One of the topics that came a lot was sleeplessness.
Poor sleep. The ADHD adult as a ‘Night Owl.’ Sound familiar?
The experts we sat down with (who have ADHD themselves) talked about the challenges of a mind that is coming awake as everyone else in the world is nodding off, fading away, and heading off to slumber land.
Dr. Roberto Olivardia talked about a sleep study he took part in that showed that his brain actually is waking up at 10:00 at night. Which worked well for him at Medical School and in being able to work without distraction because most of the world has shut down. (This was before the constant thrumming of the Internet.)
It works less well now that he is a father, a husband, and a doctor with clients.
As he described how he struggles, I nodded. And nodded. And nodded.
“Yep. I know that one.”
It’s like the Sleep Fairy is sprinkling magic dust over most people, and sprinkling some kind of stimulant over the rest of us, the adults with ADHD.
I CAN GO ALL NIGHT
I was surprised to learn that adults with ADHD suffer from higher rates of various sleep disorders like Restless Legs Syndrome, Sleep Apnea, and Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome. That last one, as Dr. Kathleen Nadeau explained, is the fancy scientific term for being a ‘Night Owl.’
The ability to stay up late and be ‘on’ is one of the reasons I got into show business. Live theatre works for someone who is at their best in the evening. Or, if not their best, their second best. (The other time we tend to be at our best and most productive is first thing in the morning.)
So while other people were settling down in their theatre seats to enjoy an evening of comedy, we performers were back stage, revving up. In fact, I often went through a severe dip in energy starting at about 4:00 pm and running till about 7:00 pm. I’d be drained, head nodding, my brain a wad of sludge, feeling slightly ill. Time and again I was convinced I was coming down with something and I’d brace myself for the possibility that I’d be sick during the show.
What’s the shortest route to the washroom if I’m nauseous?
Then as I slouched in my dressing room, or in the green room, head lolling, the stage manager would pass by, “One hour to curtain, people. One hour.” My body would start to rally.
By time the Stage Manager called out, “Five minutes to curtain. Places please!” I was grinning, eager, hopping from foot to foot, itching to go. The dread had turned to excitement, anticipation, laced with just enough stage fright to keep me sharp.
THE PROBLEM: YOU’RE ‘ON’ WHEN EVERYONE ELSE IS ‘OFF’
Patrick McKenna, who went through the Second City system, experienced the same thing. What’s interesting is that after the main show had ended, around 10:00, there would be a break, and then the performers would come back and do another hour or more of improv. Which requires the most focus. You have to be alert, listening, and ready to boogie with whatever the other actors said.
At the end of the show the audience left satisfied and spent.
But I was always ready to do another show. And I was ravenous. We’d end up in a deli eating bagels and cream cheese and Caesar salad until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. Asleep by 3:00, up at noon…. It was great.
HOW DO YOU PUT YOURSELF TO SLEEP?
So you can imagine my shock when I started doing television. Up at 6:30 a.m. In makeup at 8:00 or 8:30. Going until 6:00 or 7:00 at night. Since I was always both a writer and a performer of the TV shows, and often also the director and producer, it was a dramatic shift.
How did I shift from one to the other? How did I move from a live theatre schedule to a TV schedule?
Basically, I didn’t. I stopped doing live theatre mostly.
As well, the first TV series I did coincided with the birth of my first child. Which disrupted life’s routines and schedules more than work ever did. So I had to let go of what felt ‘natural.’
What’s interesting now is that I have learned some techniques to get myself to sleep very quickly. In fact, it’s rare that Ava falls asleep before I do.
What are those techniques?
Computer and cell phone off. No exciting TV shows after 10:30. Reading a book that’s interesting but not thrilling. (No Stephen King. No Game of Thrones. No murder mysteries.)
As the 6 experts in ADDeep Sleep explain, there are routines you can follow, and also physical changes you can make to your environment to make sure your brain is being told, “Prepare to go Sub Warp Speed. Prepare for down time.”
If you’re struggling with sleep, ADDeep Sleep explains why your brain doesn’t want to go beddy-bye when society says you should, and what you can do to fall asleep faster and actually sleep better.
Because, as Dr. Annick Vincent says in the video, “Sleep is boring.” But lying in bed, and not sleeping is not just boring, it’s frustrating. To the point of exhaustion. Alas, exhaustion without sleep, without replenishing, without feeling refreshed. It feels like a waste of time. “Great, 7 hours and I don’t feel better.”
This is going to be one of those stories where I admit to resisting something that turned out to do me a world of good. Dunno if that’s a ‘guy thing’, or an ‘ADHD thing’, or a ‘Rick thing.’
But it’s going to take me a minute or two to get there. Stay with me! (Or skip to the end, then come back and read chunks in a random order until it makes sense. Hey, it’s your ADHD, do what works for you.)
So, as you well know, there is a lot of confusion about ADHD. Some people don’t believe ADHD exists. Including a lot of ADHD experts. And even some folks like us who have ADHD.
“What did he just say? ADHD Experts don’t believe in ADHD?” Yeah. Kind of. It’s the name, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
It’s those first two words. ‘Attention Deficit.’ The fact is, most of us can hyper-focus when we’re interested. So saying we suffer from a Deficit of Attention is a bit like saying someone who is seven feet tall has “Door Frame Head Bang Disorder.” Yes, that’s one problem a 7’ person faces, but there’s a lot of other issues they deal with. And if they love basketball, being 7’ tall isn’t a problem at all. ADHD is complex. Who among us only suffers from a deficit of attention?
This must be why, these days, every expert we interview is keen to talk about ADHD as a deficit of Executive Functions. Executive Functions are, well, think of it this way… Imagine a top-level executive at a company that makes toilets (it’s just an example, ok?). Call her Tanya. Of Tanya’s Toilets. As a top executive, Tanya doesn’t make the toilets, she doesn’t test them, or work on design, engineering, or a thousand other details. The ‘doing’ gets done by others.
So what does Tanya do?
What Is Executive Function?
That’s an executive’s job. And part of your brain has that job. That’s its Executive Function.
Part of my brain is supposed to have that job, too. But that list of Tanya’s roles? That’s not me. At least, that’s not my brain’s natural inclination.
If I was working at Tanya’s Toilets I’d be in the design department, coming up with a dozen ideas a day on new designs, ways to improve efficiency, and… Okay, I’m going to switch from a mythical toilet factory to my life. (Insert your own joke here.)
Can I Trust These People?
Back in my early days, writing for stage and radio, I had to create systems to keep track of scripts as they moved from a funny idea to a finished performance. It was difficult and took a lot of time and energy for me. It was exhausting. Disheartening. Which meant my personal life was a mess.
When I began working in television, I discovered the power of the Production Manager and the other specialists who didn’t come up with the funny ideas, but could get them produced. They created the system and kept it humming with far less stress that I ever experienced. All I had to worry about was being funny. Wooooo hoooo!
Admittedly, it was unnerving to have other people making all these decisions—at first. I discovered I have, well, control issues. (Who me? Really?) But… deep breath… By the time The Red Green Show hit it’s stride, I learned to trust the team to work their magic.
Work Was Going Great! But…
When I launched my own series, History Bites, I was the Host, Head Writer, Producer and Director. I still had a strong team to support me, but work was taking everything I had.
Then I discovered coaching.
I’d like to be able to tell you that I instantly knew an ADD Coach would be the answer I didn’t even know I was looking for. Alas! At the time I thought, “I don’t have the time or money to fit coaching into my schedule.”
Looking back now, I can see it was a bit like driving madly around North America at full throttle searching for an address I desperately needed to get to, but had no idea how to find, and complaining, “I don’t have time to stop and plug it into the GPS.”
What Can A Coach Do?
Remember that list of Tanya’s Executive Functions? Managing time and resources? Checking progress, following up and providing feedback? Motivating and supporting? Keeping focused on goals? Yadda, yadda, yadda…
OMG! These are the precisely the things a coach does!
But, you may well ask, and if you didn’t, I will ask for you, “What if I already have a doctor (or a therapist or an analyst or…)”
Totally different story. Like saying, “I already have car, and a tank of gas, why do I need a GPS to navigate?”
My doctor was there to help me stop the suffering. Starting with medication. He could help me work through emotional stuff, beliefs, and feelings. We worked on areas where I felt I was ‘broken’ or ‘failing.’ Crucial stuff.
If I was to give my life a grade, my doctor helped me go from an F to a C. My coach has taken me from a C to an A. An A+ on a good day.
What my coach does is help me create strategies, and generate actions that work for me. My coach gives me straight talk, with much love. She reminds me of my priorities, checks in, nudges me when I go off course, and makes me pause to celebrate and acknowledge my victories so that they don’t slip by unnoticed. Like a lot of folks with ADD, I’m always on the next thing. The next script. Or the next breakthrough flushing mechanism for Tanya’s Toilets.
Just thought of a sales idea: “Tanya’s Toilets. Flush With Success.”
Where Was I? Oh, Right…
The point is, when my wife first suggested we try coaching, I was verrrrry uncomfortable with the idea. Just as I was when Production Managers started taking over all the things I’d forced myself to learn how to do in the entertainment biz. People with ADD can have trust issues, can’t we?
Now, all I will say is this: Coaching has made a huge difference for me. In ways I never would have anticipated. (See, I told ya I would get to this part of the story!)
Coaching isn’t free. But I can tell you that coaching has saved me years of time, money, and effort. I’ve avoided endless frustration. And been far more productive.
A lot of people with ADD we’ve spoken to have expressed similar concerns and questions about coaching. Or they never even realized it existed. Which is why our newest video looks at the hows and whys of ADD Coaching. It explains the many ways coaches work—in person, by phone, on Skype—and how you can work with a coach to create solutions and strategies customized to your needs.
As coach Barbara Luther says, “There’s no one else in your life that’s going to tell you the truth, really truly, and listen and hear who you are, who you are becoming and what you really want—AND keep you working toward that. That’s the coach’s job.”
Curious? Check out the trailer for ADD & Coaching: You Don’t Have To Go It Alone, now the shop.
By Rick Green
But each Email was from a different person.
Of course, it turned out that The New York Times had done yet another scathing article on ADHD. The N. Y. Times is infamous amongst those of us working to end the stigma and suffering around ADHD, because past articles have been dismissive, alarmist, and in this age of declining newspaper readership, seemingly deliberately controversial. Stirring the pot. Getting website hits. Generating traffic and ad revenue.
This article was different. There was some good information about legitimate concerns about medication, overuse, abuse, and so on. But along there way there was a frustrating amount of oversimplifications, alarmist nonsense, half-truths, stuff taken out of context, and more.
SCARY HEADLINES! FRIGHTENING FACTS! SEE PAGE 9!
This article will be a moneymaker for many ADHD specialists who inevitably receive a wave of calls from frightened clients, “But it’s in the New York Times!”
Now, hey, I grew up thinking newspapers reported facts.
Then I started creating stage shows, radio programs, television shows, and more recently programs about ADHD. These generated publicity, promotion, reviews, articles, human interest pieces… And almost every one contained factual errors. One reporter interviewed the Frantics and took copious notes. The finished article had quotes by me, ‘Rick said that…’ which were in fact said by Dan, or Paul. Some quotes were pure inventions. Which was fine, because they were quite clever.
READ ALL ABOUT IT. OR SOMEWHAT SIMILAR TO IT.
I won’t go into the article at length. I’ll let one of the medical experts slash and burn their way through it. But I can tell you that in a previous NY Times article the reporter mentioned our program, ADD & Loving It?! though not by name. (The article was about how a young man died from abusing medications.)
The article said that in the documentary a doctor claimed that ADHD medications were safer than aspirin. Outrageous right? How could anyone say that? Actually, two doctors say it in the program. Because it’s true. Fast food kills far more people than guns ever do. But that doesn’t make good news.
And fast food companies buy way more advertising space on TV, radio, and newspapers than gun & ammo manufacturers do.
The point is not this particular article, or the NYTimes agenda around ADHD. (And hey, medication is tricky, and it is being abused. That’s true of every medication.) Why this paper has decided to target this disorder is a mystery. Perhaps a senior editor was misdiagnosed. Or is afraid they have it. (In our documentary Dr. Hallowell mentions that there are a lot of journalists who fall into the ADHD spectrum.) Perhaps someone’s child was misdiagnosed. (Hey, I went nuts for about 5 minutes when my son was diagnosed.)
Perhaps ADHD is an easy target and they know it’ll generate lots of heat. (Hey, it’s got me blogging about it, instead of about this week’s webinar.)
Who knows. It doesn’t matter.
Here’s what you need to know. Here’s what does matter to you: Trust no one. And be open to everyone. Learn, read, explore, and always ask questions. (Watch our video about Informed Consent, it’s important!)
And be prepared to let go of what you already know. As Dr. Steven Kurtz famously says at the beginning of ADD & Loving It?!:
“What I learned to do in graduate school to treat ADHD, I would now consider malpractice, which I know is a very strong statement, but it’s one that I do make and I make confidently.”
Think about that. The only thing you can be confident about is that you can’t be confident about anything. Even The New York Times.
By Rick Green
These are students who do not have ADHD.
The ‘normal’ ones. The ‘neurotypicals.’ The majority.
Their abuse of almost every kind of drug actually declines when they are in college or university.
With one exception. Their abuse of stimulant medication goes up.
Whereas if high school students don’t go off to college, but enter the workforce, the military, or whatever, they abuse stimulant medications less.
And they abuse the other drugs more. Marijuana, alcohol, pain killers, opiates, etc..
Make of that what you will.
It’ll help me study
What was not surprising was that many of the college students who are not ADHD and were abusing ADHD medication, are doing so to get better grades. Cause they think it will help them focus, learn better, be more alert.
(And by the way, “abusing” means taking it without a prescription, or not taking it the way it’s prescribed, as in extra doses, etc..)
But Doctor Compton outlined what the studies have shown. Yes, these non-ADHD kids who take ADHD medication feel more alert and feel they’ve done better, their cognition improves, and so on.
But the double-blind scientific studies reveal that the stimulant medications have no effect on a Non-ADHD student’s academic performance.
Whereas ADHD medications have a definite, even dramatic impact on the academic performance of ADHD kids.
In other words, if you don’t have ADHD, buying or stealing someone else’s pills is not going to help you. Even though you’ll feel more alert. More energized.
That’s just one small part of a big presentation. In a day with dozens of presentations.
Check out our video on using Marijuana to manage or treat ADHD.
One year wraps up and a fresh new year debuts.
Or, depending on your state of mind, one year staggers on it’s last legs as another lurks, ready to pounce!
Lately it’s felt more like the second version.
SO MUCH TO DO, SO LITTLE TIME
I need to be 5 different people. Or hire 5 different people!
The overwhelm I have been feeling over everything that needs doing finally forced me to actually use some of the ADHD tools I have learned.
(ASIDE: Why is it I only turn to the tools when I’m in overwhelm? Rather than use them all the time? Sigh!)
I SHOULD KNOW BETTER
After all, the stuff I learned last year in Linda Walker’s course, The Maximum Productivity Makeover For Creative Geniuses will transform the overwhelm, clarify what needs doing, help me prioritize what to do first, and make sure I’m staying on track.
The course got me to appreciate how I worked, when I was most productive, when I needed to switch to mindless, non-creative stuff. Funny, I’ve been working for 35 years and was never really aware of my own rhythms.
What’s so frustrating is that I have all of the tools I learned in Linda’s course, plus dozens of tricks and practices I have found over the years—some were learned before I was diagnosed, some I discovered afterwards.
In fact, Patrick McKenna and I put 36 of our favourite tools and strategies together in our new video, ADD & Mastering It!. Clearly I know what to do.
But knowing and doing, are two every different things, right? We all know how to lose weight. Or save money. But knowing and doing…. There’s a disconnect.
ADHD involves difficulty doing what needs doing. You know what to do, but can’t.
One of the key neurotransmitters involved in ADHD is Dopamine. By coincidence, the first two letters of this brain chemical explain it’s effect. ‘Do.’
Dopamine helps us ‘Do’ things, get moving, get started, and keep going. I know all this, yet, here I am, struggling to ‘do’ what needs doing, starting that disheartening slide down into overwhelm and then despair… Then I did something smart. I talked about it with Ava. I got out of my head. She listened, mostly. Saying it aloud broke the hold it had on me.
A PAUSE, A DEEP BREATH, A WARM DRINK
I took a break. Made a coffee. (Decaf) Looked for a cookie. (Couldn’t find any I like. Cinnamon? Yuck.)
Then I made an agreement with myself to write three paragraphs of a Blog. Just three. “I can manage that.” Despite having a thousand things to do.
One word lead to another, ideas started flowing… I was doing! And enjoying! And I kept doing. And now… I’m done! The sun has set but my mood is infinitely brighter. I’m awake, engaged, in action…MOMENTUM! What should I do now? (Oh, right, my list of To-Dos will know.)
WHAT MADE THE DIFFERENCE?
A complete turnaround, all because I went from stewing to doing.
One small step.
I believe it’s tip number 17 of 36 in ADD & Mastering It!
I should watch that more often. (Blush)