How Can I Sleep With All That Noise In My Head?

No, I don't mean the noise telling you the little purple men are coming. I mean the mental chatter that keeps a lot of people with ADHD from falling asleep. You might feel like you're tired, but your mind is not.

Except that really, you are tired, and the brakes on your mind are really, really tired. And not working for you. And now your thoughts won't shut up. Here are some things that work for me:

  • Find the right level of stimulation to calm thoughts. This means something (such as reading or a puzzle) that's interesting enough to occupy me but not compelling enough (like a book I can't put down) to wake me up more. For me this means a magazine – I read New Scientist or The Week- or short stories.
  • Chill out. This tip comes partly from the last blog post; it’s about making sure you can wind down instead of getting amped up. For me this might mean, for example, no computer after dinner. No stressful conversation topics after dinner
  • Tailor your own version of counting sheep. This will be a mental exercise that is hard enough to focus you but easy enough to keep your mind on. I count to several hundred and often forget I’m counting and have to start over. The process of returning to it and continuing on is calming. I might also focus on an imaginary point in front of me.
  • Don’t force it. If the mental noise is keeping me up, I get up and read some more. If I’m too tired to read, but my brain is still spinning, I watch tv. “relaxing” my mind won’t work by just breathing or taking a bath at this point, because all that chatter in my head makes me more tired, and less able to get to bed.

That last point makes me think: it’s rather like your chatterbox mind is a young child overtired, who just keeps playing and can’t quiet down. In fact, just like at other times with ADHD, the mind’s director can’t step up and say “time to quiet down!” Biggest tip here?

Don’t fight against it. IF all you can do is step back and notice, that’s where to start.