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ADHD, Sleep and Circadian Rhythms

Posted by coachkimcollins on January 14, 2013

Sleep is a huge problem for adults with ADHD. Recent studies estimate that up to 83% of patients suffer some type of sleep disturbance. But despite this close correlation, there’s a surprising lack of scientific research to explain exactly why ADHD patients are such bad sleepers.

One of the reasons for this gap in our knowledge is because the sleep/ADHD relationship raises a chicken and egg question: is ADHD (and its associated medication) the cause of sleep problems, or is it the other way round, i.e. do existing sleep problems cause ADHD?

Studying the rhythms

Most sleep/ADHD studies to date have focused on children with attention deficit disorders, so relatively little is known about the sleeping patterns of adults with ADHD. But new research published in 2012 is beginning to shed some light on this area, in particular about the circadian rhythms of adults with ADHD.

Circadian rhythms refer to the built in 24 hour internal clock which governs our sleep wake cycle. In normal healthy individuals, this clock is linked to the light/darkness cues of day and night. As darkness approaches, the hormone melatonin is secreted by the pineal gland inducing drowsiness. Similarly, the light of dawn signals other physiological responses to facilitate wakefulness.

To monitor these changes, the scientists fitted the participants with actigraphs to measure their movements during sleep, and took saliva samples at regular intervals to measure melatonin levels. They also took readings of two ‘clock’ genes, and another hormone, cortisol which also varies with circadian rhythm.

The measurements clearly demonstrated a wide range of sleep disturbances in the ADHD patients. Compared to the control group, night time activity levels were higher, sleep duration was shorter and over half of the adults with ADHD took an hour or longer to fall asleep,

But perhaps more intriguing were the discoveries regarding the circadian rhythms of the ADHD group. They showed a marked preference towards ‘eveningness’ or ‘owl’ behaviour, i.e. they slept and woke later. This tallied with their cortisol levels, which peaked 3 hours later than the control group.

The ADHD group also expressed a much weaker melatonin cycle, whilst their clock genes, compared to a steady pattern for the non-ADHD group, showed a complete breakdown i.e. no rhythm at all. The study concluded that: “adult ADHD is accompanied by significant changes in the circadian system, which in turn may lead to decreased sleep duration and quality in the condition

What are the implications?

Whilst this was a small-scale study, the findings raise some interesting questions. Do faulty circadian rhythms lead to ADHD? Can ADHD symptoms be treated in the same way as circadian rhythm disorders i.e. with melatonin or light therapy? Is there a link between the altered cortisol response (which is also a stress hormone) and the mood and anxiety disorders common in ADHD patients? If nothing else, the results of the study suggest an interesting direction for new research.

What practical steps can be taken?

The good news is that these days you don’t have to go to a sleep laboratory to find out what your sleep patterns look like. You can examine your own circadian rhythms just by downloading an app onto your smartphone. More advanced systems such as the Zeo Sleep Manager can track your sleep patterns and provide you with detailed graphs showing you exactly how much REM and deep sleep you’re getting. Alternatively, just use a pen and paper and start to make a log of your sleep habits, including sleep duration, wake time and when you feel drowsy during the day.

Gathering the data is just the first step. Once you have more information about your personal sleep patterns, consider talking with a health professional about how you can make a positive change to your life by tackling your sleep problems.

This is a guest post by Jeff Mann,  owner of Sleep Junkies, a website dedicated to bringing you the latest research, news and tips about sleep to make you healthier, happier and smarter.

 

Image courtesy of Ambro at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

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Procrastination Infographic

Posted by coachkimcollins on January 8, 2013

It’s the first full week of the New Year… Are you Procrastinating already? Online Classes.org has a great Infographic on College Students and Procrastination. But, I think it is applicable to all of us who struggle with Procrastination.
Internships Infographic

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Happy New Year

Posted by coachkimcollins on December 31, 2012

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“Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.” Helen Keller

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3 Things You Can Do To Stress Less This Holiday Season

Posted by coachkimcollins on November 29, 2012

  1. Don’t try to do everything well. Choose one thing that’s important to you this holiday season and work on doing that one thing well. Simplify things by hiring help or lowering your standards for what is acceptable. For example, instead of trying to create a picture perfect home for the holidays, hire someone else to clean and organize for you. Or, change your standards from “picture perfect” to  “cluttered but clean “ .

  2. Watch a feel-good holiday movie. Nothing gets me in the spirit more than watching a holiday movie on the Hallmark Channel. These movies allow you to escape your chaotic life for a while and focus on the true spirit of the holidays.

  3. Plan and visualize your post-holiday activities. For many people, the holidays can be a letdown when they are over. If you miss being around people, plan to get together with friends for lunch or dinner after the first of the year to stave off those post holiday blues. If you feel overwhelmed during the holidays, you might want to plan some alone time once the chaos dies down. Plan something that will allow you to decompress and rejuvenate. Visualizing your plan can help you get through high stress holiday moments.

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Audio Post: What are you thankful for?

Posted by coachkimcollins on November 28, 2012

Listen to My Audio Post: What are you thankful for?

 

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Audio Post:Flexibility

Posted by coachkimcollins on October 2, 2012

Listen to My Audio Post: Flexibility

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Listly – Stay Focused Online

Posted by coachkimcollins on September 27, 2012

Are you constantly getting distracted online? Check out the list of applications that I created to help you stay focused online and get things done.

http://cdn.list.ly/af5d35c/images/embed/header/logo.png

Stay Focused Online

Minimize online distractions, take breaks, and stay focused online.

Feel free to help me curate this list by adding any applications that you use. Make sure to follow the list so that you will be notified when additions are made to the list.

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Audio Post: Procrastination Quote

Posted by coachkimcollins on September 27, 2012

Listen to My Audio Post: Procrastination Quote

 

 

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