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How are you at falling asleep?

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

... and it’s all to do with the crucial time in our life when ADHDers really, really, really do need to slow down!

Deliberately slowing down isn’t something most ADHDers would choose to do. However, it has now been proved through fMRI scans that slowing the breath is a crucial part of falling asleep, which is a time when many of us struggle.

Ian Robertson, Professor at Trinity College, Dublin led the team that discovered that slowing the breath is more precise, more side-effect-free and more effective than any chemical you could be prescribed or buy from your pharmacy.

He explains that noradrenaline, a hormone and neuro transmitter, is the wake-up chemical of the brain. It is sprayed to all parts of the brain by a tiny area called the locus coeruleus when anything new, interesting, challenging or worrying enters the mind.

Noradrenaline keeps us alert and prevents us from sleeping.

THE GOOD NEWS is that we have a direct influence on how much noradrenaline is being sprayed.

Professor Robertson saw in real time that the firing of the neurones in the locus coeruleus went up and down as we breathed in and out, and actually by changing the breath you can change the critical components of the [sleep system]

and this is how it works:

Do try this the next time you have followed your bedtime routine and want to fall asleep. It may seem unnatural, even a bit uncomfortable to start with. Without being too strict, just allow your breath to take a little longer than usual. Try not to engage with thoughts as they arise, just return to the feelings of breathing.

To help you, it’s worth adopting a practice of slowing down the breath at will during the day. It’s particularly helpful at times of worry and anxiety as the lowering of your heart rate and release of muscle tension will both trigger calming feelings. Once you find it easier to slow the breath at will, slowing up at sleep time will soon become a gentle, enjoyable habit.

Reminder! For the ADHDer, there will probably be more components to a successful sleep routine. For example, reducing anxiety at sleep time. I cover the steps here. Without these other helpful steps, it might be quite tricky to fall asleep just using this breathing technique.

Sleep well!

References and gratitude:

Michael Mosely, podcast ‘sleep well’


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