Adhd night owl
How Staying up Late Boosts Productivity
The cacophony of life diminishes with the dying light. As the rest of the world tucks into bed, our phones and brains grow quiet. We are able to process and focus and create with a special clarity at night — and the later the better, it seems.
This is what adults with ADHD told ADDitude in a recent survey about ‘night owl’ tendencies and drawbacks.
As we know, ADHD makes it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up by impairing the brain’s ability to sustain and regulate arousal and alertness. But this ADHD symptom is not universally bad, according to the ADDitude readers who said they do their best thinking and creating during the distraction-free quiet of nighttime. Read their stories below and add yours to the Comments section below.
Night Owls with ADHD
“Staying up late has been a huge issue for me as a stay-at-home mom. I always want to push myself to wake before my kids so I can ease into the craziness of the day, but I am too exhausted from staying up late. The vicious cycle continues when my brain wakes up after I get my kids in bed – the house is finally quiet enough for me to process all of the endless stimuli I’ve had thrown at me all day.” – Anonymous
“Growing up, nighttime was my private time to read, watch, or listen to whatever I wanted. Now, especially since I’ve had kids, nighttime feels like my chance to get work done. But with big projects, distraction and procrastination lead to all-nighters. Late nights crash into early mornings and getting the kids ready for school. I tell myself I’ll catch up on sleep during the weekend, but we all know it doesn’t work that way.” – Steve
“I described myself as a night owl for a long time, but I was actually just practicing Revenge Bedtime Procrastination. I wasn’t necessarily more productive; I just tended to stay up late playing video games and scrolling though social media. Other times, I justified my late nights by using the time to plan a new elaborate system that would help me organize and fix my life. Only getting three hours of sleep each night, however, did not give me a lot of energy to follow through on these plans.” – Joe
[Download This Free Guide for Adults: How to Sleep Better with ADHD]
“I like to work on my least preferred tasks at night because that’s the time when there are no interruptions and minimal distractions. I don’t have people contacting me at night, so I’m not faced with the difficult task of telling people ‘no.’ It’s just me and my work.” – Anonymous
“No matter what time I get out of bed, I don’t mentally wake up until the sun is going down. I often stay up working, writing, and studying until the sun rises, and then sleep until the afternoon. I finally realized I had Sensory Processing Sensitivity and ADHD, and there are too many distractions during the day.” – Anonymous
“Being a night owl is a quality that I never associated with ADHD; I assumed the pressure of a deadline was what enabled me to stay up all night making Halloween costumes every October 30th! The late-night hours are also the time when solitude is possible and distracting stimulus is gone. ” – Janet
“Nighttime feels like ‘bonus hours’ because the rest of the world sleeps and I’m able to focus without distractions. When I stay up late and get a lot done, I get so happy and energized. I think that is what led to me being misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder in my early 20s – the lack of patterned sleep, erratic energy, and no focus.” – Emery
[Read: ADHD-Fueled Anxiety Is Keeping Me Up at Night]
“I am much more creative and productive at night. It’s like a light switch flips on and, after a day of fog, I can finally think clearly. If I weren’t medicated, I would stay up until 3 or 4 am. When I take my ADHD medication I have a more ‘normal’ schedule, but it’s a shame because I produce some of my best poetry and artwork when I go a day without medication and then work through the night. Picking which days I sacrifice productivity so that later I can be creative is tricky to manage.” – Hayley
“I’m a writer, and I’ve always felt most creative at 2 or 3 am. This means that my sleep schedule slips toward completely nocturnal whenever I’m stressed, frustrated, or creative. The ADHD medication Strattera helps solve those problems; I honestly never knew what it was like to wake up feeling refreshed until I started taking it! Unfortunately, I can’t take my medication when I’m pregnant or nursing, which makes keeping a proper sleep schedule a massive struggle for me.”– Jenalyn
“I do feel more creative at night, but I don’t let myself work beyond midnight. Otherwise, I risk not being able to sleep at all because the creative juices won’t stop flowing. I try to be in bed by 1 am, but often it winds up being almost 2 am. Then I have to play Solitaire on my phone for about 5 to 10 minutes to distract me. Listening to ‘Sleepcasts’ – boring stories on the Headspace or Calm apps – also helps me fall asleep.” – Audrey
“For more than 30 years, I’ve been my most productive after 10 pm. Now that I don’t have to fit into a normal work schedule, I’m staying up even later. I get engrossed in reading, listening to TV or audiobooks, and playing solitaire. I make sure to get around 6 hours of sleep, but I’m ashamed I can’t do more in the morning or meet with friends prior to 1 pm.” – Anonymous
“I was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, and my entire childhood I was constantly in trouble for having so much energy at night. ‘You’ll be normal once you have to wake up at the same time every day for work,’ everyone would said. Now, I am 32 and still a night owl, and I also don’t have the same circadian rhythm as those ‘normal people.’ I thrive on 5 hours of sleep, not 8 to 9 hours, and I’ve stopped shaming myself for being able to get things done at night that I struggle to get done during the day.” – Anonymous
“I could never be on time to high school, early classes in college, or a 9-to-5 job because I was always up late. When I waited tables and work started at 3 pm, I was always on time and then I’d stay up until 2 am and sleep until noon. Now, as a mom, I have to wake up by 8 am and be in bed by 10 pm. I wish I could stay up to write, paint, and read, but I would be a ‘mombie’ all the next day.” – Anonymous
“I definitely get more done after dinnertime – I have to set an alarm to remind myself to go to bed. It takes me more than 2 hours to fall asleep because of my racing thoughts. My brain is like a TV with a broken remote control. Mornings are useless for me even on my days off.” – Anonymous
“As an infant, my parents would check on me around 2 am and find me happily playing with my mobiles. By 6 months, I was sitting up and playing with my stuffed animals. By 9 years old, my mother would catch me hiding under the covers with a flashlight reading novels. And so it goes to age 70. I have read hundreds of articles on sleep needs and tips. Finally, my husband helped me come up with a routine that gets me into bed around midnight. Forget the endless tips. It’s your life; what works for everyone else might not work for you.” – Anonymous
Night Owls with ADHD: Next Steps
- Learn: End the ‘I Can’t Sleep’ Cycle of Exhaustion
- Download: Our Readers’ Favorite Sleep and Self-Care Apps
- Read: Oh, I See You’re Awake, Too
Thank you for reading ADDitude. To support our mission of providing ADHD education and support, please consider subscribing. Your readership and support help make our content and outreach possible. Thank you.
Previous Article Next Article
Are You a Night Owl? About ADHD and Late Sleep
by APSARD Blogger | Nov 7, 2016
By Sandra Kooij, MD PhD
PsyQ, psycho-medical programs, Expertise center adult ADHD, the Hague, The Netherlands
ADHD is related to several sleep problems, but the most frequent seems the delayed sleep phase syndrome, a disturbance of the circadian rhythm. Research of children and adults with ADHD (when compared to controls) shows that the majority of these individuals has a late sleep onset that is associated with a late onset of the sleep hormone melatonin (van der Heijden et al, 2005; van Veen et al, 2010). Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in the brain when it is getting dark in the evening, and we wake up by light in the morning. The onset of the melatonin production helps to fall asleep. For most adults the onset of melatonin is around 9.30 pm; in ADHD children compared to controls this occurs at least 45 minutes later, and in adults with ADHD even 90 minutes (van der Heijden ea, 2005; van Veen ea 2010). After melatonin onset, it normally takes 2 hours to fall asleep, but in adults with ADHD it takes at least 3 hours (Bijlenga et al, 2013). So it does make sense that so many people with ADHD have difficulty falling asleep on time. This late onset of melatonin is driven by genes that regulate the biological clock, and those genes have been linked psychiatric disorders like ADHD and bipolar disorder (Landgraf et al, 2014). What the exact relationship is between this late sleep pattern and ADHD is still unknown.
Why should this be a problem?
If you are a late person you may prefer to work in the afternoon, evening and/or night, why would that be a problem? The problem is that a late sleep pattern inevitably leads to a short sleep duration, and short sleep has been linked to numerous health problems in the long term. The preferred sleep duration for most people is 7-8 hours, but people working in for instance night-shifts seldom sleep longer than 5-6 hours. The same may be true for people with ADHD, who are evening types that live like they work in night shifts... Missing a few hours of sleep during a limited period will not pose risk, but when short sleep is a chronic pattern, it may lead to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer (Kooij & Bijlenga 2013). So getting a sufficient number of hours of sleep seems pretty essential to prevent chronic diseases. Also, late sleep increases the vulnerability for mood disorders, especially (winter) depression and bipolar disorder (Lewy et al, 2009). So we better all take care of our sleep!
Take the MCTQ test: am I a late sleeper?
How to take care of longer sleep?
First, sleep hygiene measures may be helpful, starting with limiting light exposure after 9.30 pm. This is because the light emitted by lamps, TV, computer screen and mobile phone reduces the production of melatonin through the eyes (Fiqueiro et al, 2011), thereby delaying your sleep onset time. Developing a timed sleep ritual like taking a hot shower, reading a book using dim light etc. may be helpful as well. When this is not sufficient, 1-3 mg of short acting melatonin can induce sleep at an earlier time before 12 pm, usually one hour after ingestion, thereby increasing total sleep duration (Kooij & Bijlenga 2013). People waking up after a few hours of sleep using short acting melatonin, are advised to switch to the long acting variant. Melatonin is not addictive as are other sleep medications. It is essential to take melatonin on-time, which is after 4 pm and before 12 pm to have its desired effect. This is because melatonin not only acts as a sleep inducer, but it also resets the biological clock (Lewy et al, 2004). As the biological clock influences all physical processes in our body, we best take into account the right time window to prevent unwanted or unknown effects. Research has shown that melatonin is effective in adolescents in advancing sleep onset and increasing sleep duration, as well as in children with ADHD and sleep onset insomnia (Eckerberg et al, 2012; van Maanen et al, 2016; Hoebert et al, 2009).
149. Everything is clear about ADHD (part 1)
“Everything is clear about ADHD” - part 1. ADHD is not a disease!
Not so long ago, in the group "These insufferable ADHDs," I inadvertently mentioned that "everything about ADHD has long been clear" (and therefore it is not interesting to write on this topic). Several readers immediately drew attention to this impudent statement and asked to specify what it is for me to “understand”, despite the fact that the rest of the world does not? I had to “responsible for the market”
I would like to start with a completely, as it were, obvious thing. By stating that ADHD is not a disease. This is a collective, “umbrella” diagnosis (perhaps, the word “diagnosis” should be put in quotation marks here) for a VERY wide list of situations and conditions, each of which has its own specific causes. The reasons are different. Sometimes - VERY different, from special giftedness to schizophrenia. But outwardly, when viewed from the outside, these situations often manifest themselves similarly: a child catches crows in class, shows indefatigable activity, has difficulties with self-organization ... And this “similarity” (as well as other circumstances that we will not talk about now) inspired some wise men on the "invention" of "attention deficit disorder" (with and without hyperactivity). For understanding, it is as if doctors, based on the readings of a thermometer, diagnosed the patient with a “high temperature syndrome”. Do you understand that a high temperature can be associated with THOUSAND different diseases? And to “treat” a person from a high temperature is a so-so idea. Weird. Especially if you remember that a rise in temperature is always a PROTECTIVE REACTION of the body, thus fighting the disease. nine0003
Everyone seems to understand about the temperature, right? But about attention (and its "deficiency") - not everyone understands yet, alas. Even doctors, which is really sad.
But let's not talk about sad things, let's try to highlight something positive and constructive here. If ADHD is not a disease, THEN IT DOES NOT NEED TO BE TREATED. If a psychiatrist makes such a diagnosis for your child, then this is just a signal that you NEED TO UNDERSTAND. Make a complete check of the child's health and FAMILY HEALTH. Find out what is behind the problems with attention and restlessness. Maybe this is a violation of the supply of blood to the brain due to an injury received in childbirth. Maybe delayed maturation of the frontal lobes. Maybe biochemical problems (disturbance of dopamine metabolism, etc.). Or maybe just the situation in the family and / or school is such that the child is in constant stress and nervous exhaustion - and what kind of attention is there? nine0003
Need to figure it out. Keeping, most importantly, your own common sense and understanding. Parents can't do without them.
That's all for now. To be continued. And for those who read to the end - a gift. Translation brochure “Positive support for children with ADHD. A practical guide for parents." Here you will find clear and concise recommendations. Reminders of very simple but very important things. A big, big list of ideas and sensible tips for all occasions. And all this is well structured, systematized and ordered. nine0015 Save. Read. Try on your situation and use what seems appropriate.
“These insufferable ADHDs”
By the way, Ilya is one of the speakers at the Sensorimotor Integration conference. He gives a master class "House of the Owl: suspension methods and functionality" on the second day of the conference (October 07): https://nannyowl.ru/smi-conferece-2022/
don't get enough sleep. Real stories and treatment tips
When the sun went down, the children and the insufferable neighbor with the drill went to bed, then your time comes! You feel an unprecedented surge of energy, incredible clarity of thought and a terrible thirst for creativity. You sit down at a laptop, an easel, take a chisel in your hands... and at seven in the morning you go to bed completely exhausted to jump into lunch and rush to catch up on everything you overslept. If this is about you, then it's probably not that you are a night owl. This is how attention deficit hyperactivity disorder manifests itself. nine0003
As we know, ADHD makes it difficult to fall asleep, sleep, and wake up by impairing the brain's ability to maintain and regulate arousal and alertness. But this ADHD symptom isn't always bad: it can sometimes help you create and feel creative. But this productivity comes at a price.
Contents of the article
"Night time is like "bonus hours" because the rest of the world is asleep and I can focus without distractions. When I go to bed late and have a lot of time, I become so happy and full of energy. I think that's what led to my early 20s being misdiagnosed as bipolar—lack of structured sleep, erratic energy, and lack of focus," says Emery. nine0003
“Being a night owl is a quality I never associated with ADHD; I assumed this deadline pressure kept me up all night making Halloween costumes every October 30th! The late night hours are also times when privacy is possible and there are no distractions,” says Janet.
“When I was growing up, night time was my personal time to read, watch or listen to whatever I wanted. Now, especially since I have kids, night time seems like my chance to work. But with big projects, distraction and procrastination lead to insomnia. Late night turns into early morning and preparation of children for school. I tell myself I'll sleep in on the weekend, but we all know that doesn't happen," Steven complains. nine0003
How can I help?
First, let's face it: there are no "bonus hours": the night is not endless and every hour brings closer the time when you need to get up and go to work or take the children to school. Of course, adults with ADHD understand this very well - intellectually - but the distorted sense of time leads to the fact that there are only two types of time "now" and "not now".
Working with a therapist can help develop a sense of timing and reduce symptoms of ADHD. nine0003
- It is also important to create an external disciplinary framework for yourself and strictly adhere to them: for example, set an alarm for midnight (or two in the morning, depending on how many hours of sleep you need and what time you need to get up) and save the file according to the alarm and turn off the computer (turn off the series in the middle of the series, put down the brush, insert what you need) - and go to sleep. Do not water the flowers, do not run the laundry, do not clean the bathroom: wash your face and sleep!
- You can put reminder stickers in all the places where you can get stuck and start procrastinating going to bed. nine0054
- If you have trouble falling asleep, meditation to clear your thoughts will help. You can try guided meditations and various apps that help you fall asleep.
- Don't believe in the idea of "sleep on the weekend". First of all, it doesn't work because on weekends you will be woken up by the kids, or by the boss with an urgent question at 8 am, or by the garbage truck, or... Second, waking up late on weekends throws off your circadian rhythm and gives you another week. with sleep disorders. nine0054
“Procrastination in revenge”
“I have described myself as a night owl for a long time, but in reality I just practiced procrastinating to sleep out of revenge. I wasn't necessarily more productive; I just had a habit of staying up late playing video games and browsing social media. On other occasions, I justified my late nights by using the time to plan a complex new system that would help me organize and get my life going. However, three hours of sleep did not give me enough energy to carry out these plans. ” Joe says. nine0003
Such stories are not uncommon among adults with undiagnosed ADHD. They are trying to do a million important work and household chores. And when they finish them, they ask themselves: “But what about me? Where is my time for myself? But they are too tired to do anything really nice. It's dark in the park, the gym is closed, the theatre, the cinema - write anything here. But it's a shame to go to sleep; and they spend hours scrolling through cat videos, binge-watching stupid TV shows, gulping down a season of a show a night, and playing video games. nine0003
And then they go to sleep broken, so that in the morning they again rush to catch up with the departing train of life: sort out incoming letters, run around the shops like crazy until they close, put out burning deadlines - finish late in the evening and turn on the series again. And so in a circle.
How can I help?
For some reason, the "owl schedule" of life is not for you. You probably still have work to do, for example, with morning calls. Jo was enlightened when she showed up for one such morning ZOOM in a blouse, beads and pajama pants - and then she realized that she was tired of running every morning to catch up with the others who are far ahead and feeling helpless - she wants to manage her life herself. nine0003
- First of all, determine what time you need to get up in order to be on time. Add some time for morning procrastination: just a little, maybe half an hour, so as not to get carried away too much.
- Calculate how many hours of sleep you need (rarely less than 8, you can start with this figure). Decide what time you should go to bed. Set an alarm for this time and follow the tips from the previous section.
- Determine what time your working day ends. Even if you have a free schedule, a rigid external structure is extremely important for children and adults with ADHD. If you have a loved one, ask him to remind you that your working day is over - "time for yourself" begins. nine0054
- Try to follow the schedule; plan rewards for the days when everything worked out, and don't be too hard on yourself if on some day you still stayed up at work until midnight or slept until lunch.
Click and watch
Most Creative Time
“I am much more creative and productive at night. It's like flipping a light switch, and after a day in the fog, I can finally think clearly. If I had not been treated, I would not have slept until 3 or 4 in the morning. I have a more "normal" schedule when I'm on ADHD meds, but that's a shame because I create my best poetry and art when I go off meds during the day and then work all night. It's hard to choose which days I'm sacrificing my productivity so that I can get creative later." Hailey explains. nine0003
For Jenalyn, ADHD treatment was also an escape from the nightly schedule that kept her from being "on the same page with the world. " But she couldn't take the medicine when she was pregnant or breastfeeding. In addition, she, too, experienced a surge of creative energy only when she was not taking medication: “I am a writer, and I always felt most creative at 2 or 3 in the morning. This means that my sleep schedule shifts to an all-night sleep schedule when I am stressed, frustrated, or creative.”
“I never made it to school, my first college class, or my 9 to 5 job because I always went to bed late. When I worked as a waitress and work started at 3 pm, I always arrived on time, and then went to bed at 2 and slept until noon. Now, as a mom, I have to get up at 8 am and go to bed at 10 pm. I would like to stay awake so I can write, draw and read, but I have to be "mom" all the next day."
What to do?
The creative energy that flows through the veins of artists, poets and writers is too subtle a matter for us to undertake to explain why it prefers the night. In any case, we recommend discussing this topic with a psychotherapist: as a rule, ADHD is treated by therapists working in a behavioral and cognitive-behavioral approach. nine0003
“TV with a broken remote”
Many women complain about feeling ashamed of not fitting in with society. The “owl” schedule interferes with motherhood, interferes with “full-time” work even remotely, friends look with condemnation when you tell them that a meeting is impossible before 13.00.
“I definitely get more done in the afternoon—I have to set my alarm to remind myself it's time for bed. It takes more than two hours for me to lie in bed to fall asleep because of my wandering thoughts. My brain is like a TV with a broken remote. Morning is useless for me even on weekends.” nine0003
“I was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, but I had constant problems throughout my childhood because I had so much energy at night. “You will become normal when you have to wake up at the same time every day for work,” everyone said. Now I'm 32 years old and still a night owl, and I don't have the same circadian rhythm as those "normal people". I feel better when I sleep 5 hours instead of 8-9 hours, and I stopped shaming myself for the fact that I can do at night what I find it difficult to do during the day. nine0003
“When I was little, my parents would check on me around 2:00 am and find that I enjoyed playing with the mobile that hung over the bed. By 6 months I was already sitting and playing with soft toys. By the age of 9, my mother caught me when I was hiding under the covers with a flashlight and reading novels. And so on until the age of 70. I have read hundreds of articles on sleep needs and millions of tips. Finally, my husband helped me come up with a routine for me to go to bed around midnight. Forget about endless advice. It's your life; what works for everyone else may not work for you.