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Love, Support, and Zzz's: Tackling Sleep Issues in ADHD Marriages

According to a 2018 study a sleep disorder and ADHD, an estimate of 25% to 50% of people with ADHD experience sleep problems, ranging from insomnia to secondary sleep conditions. Also, according to a recent article in Columbia Psychiatry, sleep problems can contribute to the onset and worsening of different mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and even suicidal ideation. Depression, and anxiety are common commodities with people with ADHD.

In an earlier blog, we talked about the different ADHD triggers and strategies that a non-ADHD spouse can support the ADHD spouse in overcoming these triggers. Today, I want to share my story on how I address sleep problem, a common ADHD trigger, that my husband had, which is an ongoing challenge for us.

When my spouse and I first embarked on our marital adventure and moved into a cozy condo, we had no idea what lay ahead. What initially seemed like a serene setting had its quirks. Our bedroom was conveniently situated right above a row of garages, and our window coverings were far from adequate, allowing the moonlight to flood our room every night. Although it didn't bother me initially, this was just the beginning of a journey that would teach me the significance of identifying and managing ADHD triggers in our relationship.

Discovering the Triggers: A Personal Insight

During those early days, my husband had not yet received an ADHD diagnosis. He often mentioned that he was a light sleeper, which was quite the opposite of me. In an attempt to help him, I provided the standard sleeping aids: eye covers and ear plugs. He appreciated these gestures and used them when he felt the need. However, as time passed, I noticed something concerning. Despite my best efforts, he was still getting far less sleep than he needed. His mornings were marked by frenzied energy, reminiscent of a "zoomie," as he prepared for a demanding 60-minute commute to work.

There were nights when, in the dead of night, I'd wake up and notice the living room light on, with my husband glued to the TV. The following morning, I'd inquire about his sleep, and he'd simply say he couldn't fall asleep. Little did we know that this chronic lack of sleep was becoming a significant trigger for more pronounced ADHD symptoms – irritability, forgetfulness, and an increasing reliance on alcohol.

The Journey to Solutions: Supporting Your Spouse

After my husband was eventually diagnosed with ADHD, it still took a few more years for us to fully grasp the importance of addressing these triggers in our marriage. I suggested that he see a sleep specialist, but he was reluctant and refused to do so. I couldn't stand to see him struggle, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.

First, I invested in blackout curtains, effectively transforming our bedroom into a serene sanctuary of darkness. This may seem like a small change, but it had a significant impact. Shortly thereafter, we had the opportunity to move to a quieter home, far removed from the noisy main roads and bustling driveways. This change of environment proved to be a game-changer.

Furthermore, on nights when my husband did sleep well, we made a conscious effort to create a soothing atmosphere in the evening, minimizing loud noises so he could ease into slumber. These adjustments played a crucial role in alleviating a substantial portion of the problem. Nevertheless, there were still nights when sleep remained elusive. This is the reality of navigating an ADHD-affected marriage.

Conclusion: Finding Your Path to Support and Understanding

Navigating ADHD triggers in a marriage is not a one-size-fits-all journey. It requires understanding, patience, and the determination to find what works for your unique situation. As non-ADHD spouses, we play a vital role in supporting our partners on this challenging path. While the journey may be demanding, with dedication and love, we can help our loved ones manage their triggers and discover moments of peace amid the whirlwind of ADHD. Together, we can build stronger and more fulfilling marriages, one step at a time.

1. Wajszilber, D., Santiseban, J. A., & Gruber, R. (2018). Sleep disorders in patients with ADHD: impact and management challenges. Nature and science of sleep, 10, 453–480.

2. How Sleep Deprivation Impacts Mental Health, Columbia University, Department of Psychiatry, March 16, 2022, URL.

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