Functioning without enough sleep

This week I'm thinking about sleep- and lack thereof. It's such a huge factor for people with ADHD, yet I see a lot of people struggle against getting the sleep they need (or struggle to find how to get it).

Today's question: How do you plan (or function) differently when you haven't been able to get enough sleep?

One of the skills and habits I work on with clients with ADHD is to check in with themselves and notice their energy level- including physical and mental energy level. When I haven't had enough sleep sometimes I notice that I can't even get through the check-in with a clear head. I might wander off in thought or forget what I was asking myself.

This blurry thinking after poor sleep is a signpost to plan a bit differently.

And to start with, lacking sleep, I won't be much good at planning itself. My ability to work on complex or long tasks will be less than normal. My working memory will probably suck. This means I might look at a to do list, and definitely look at my calendar. But I have to move it all to short term, and short steps. No longer term planning today. No strategizing. No figuring out steps in a big project. What can I do?

  • keep my list of things to do very short and very clear
  • only choose clearly defined tasks
  • review my to do list frequently
  • expect less to get done
  • check my calendar. check it all day if I do have appointments, lest I forget them from hour to hour.
  • do things I can do. If picking a short list of tasks isn't working, just do something and keep checking back in
  • if all I can do when I check in is notice that I'm tired, keep aware of it
  • plan any kind of rest in that I can
  • eat well that day
  • stage the following night's rest – make it a priority. For me this means: no computer after dinner. Dinner on the early side. A shower if it will help me relax, same with a bedtime snack, and off to bed early. \

Sleep deprivation handicaps cognitive functioning. Predicting that the brain isn't as high-powered as usual helps avoid a lot of self-blame for how shoddy a job you're doing that day– and the important thing is to work with what you've got going that day, and start the next day fresh.

I've got an awful lot of experience with sleep deprivation now as a mother of two young children (who aren't great sleepers). I can do more than I thought on a poor night of sleep- as long as I know what I'm working with.