The Relationship Between ADHD and Sleep: How Wilderness Therapy Can Help with Treatment
Our minds do not turn off at bedtime, so it should be no surprise that many children suffering from ADHD also suffer from some form of sleep disorder. For those who are excessively hyperactive, impulsive, and restless, getting to sleep and staying asleep proves more difficult than it is for most. Wilderness therapy offers the opportunity to correct sleeping habits and eliminate sleep issues, and in doing so is an effective form of ADHD Treatment.
Nearly half of all children and young adults suffering from ADHD report experiencing sleep difficulties of some kind. Many of the symptoms and behavioral issues that are associated with ADHD also overlap with a variety of sleep disorders, making diagnosis difficult. While more research needs to be conducted to determine the precise relationship between ADHD and sleep disorders, it has consistently been shown that there is a connection. Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and night terrors, are more commonly present in children and teens with ADHD, and treating one may help to treat the other.
Teens and young adults suffering from ADHD often have difficulty:
- Going to bed
- Falling asleep
- Staying asleep
- Waking up feeling refreshed
Managing both ADHD and sleep disorders requires behavioral and lifestyle changes.
Children with ADHD are more active during the night, and as a result have trouble performing regular daily tasks. Poor sleep can worsen the child’s daily behavior, and poor behavior can lead to trouble sleeping. Fortunately, there are many ways to manage the effects that a poor night’s rest may have on a person’s ADHD. Part of what is achieved in wilderness therapy is correcting sleep problems, which in turn helps to correct the negative behaviors that a tired teen exhibits.
Wilderness therapy works to address sleep problems associated with ADHD by introducing new habits and lifestyle changes.
Wilderness Therapy builds better sleep habits through such things as:
- Physical Activity. Exercise is a treatment for both ADHD and sleep disorders, and wilderness therapy is tough work. Hiking, carrying equipment, and setting up camp is a physical challenge. This helps both getting to sleep and sleep quality, as well as getting rid of the built-up energy and hyperactivity that develops due to inactivity. It is important to note that physical exercise immediately before bedtime can actually promote alertness, so exercise is best done earlier in the day.
- Holistic Diet. Diet directly influences the ability to sleep and plays an important role in managing ADHD symptoms. For instance, sugar and caffeine consumed before bed make sleeping difficult and only worsen feelings of hyperactivity and restlessness. Maintaining a healthy, holistic diet can be one of the simplest ways of managing ADHD and eliminating sleep problems.
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Wilderness therapy employs the CBT model, which is founded on the notion that behaviors and interactions are influenced by the way we think: A positive change in our thoughts can positively impact our actions. In some cases, a person’s ADHD and difficulty sleeping stem from a mind that cannot turn off its thoughts of worry and fear. CBT teaches methods to help individuals transform their thought patterns and manage the feelings of anxiety that hinder their ability to fall sleep.
- Natural light therapy. Behavioral problems associated with sleep disorders and ADHD can be the result of a biological clock that is out of time. Camping in the wilderness resets this clock by using the natural sleep-wake cycle to align the body’s circadian rhythms. This natural cycle revolves around the rising and setting of the sun, which works to regulate the body’s release of melatonin—the hormone responsible for regulating sleep.
- Sleep Hygiene. This is the concept of having healthy bedtime routines and practices. Having good sleep hygiene means having a consistent routine free from sleep distractions—i.e. video games, televisions, computers. Wilderness therapy helps to develop healthy sleep and bedtime practices that participants can continue to practise when they return home.
As research expands, the link between sleep disorders and ADHD is becoming better understood. What is known is that addressing sleep issues can drastically improve the symptoms associated with ADHD. Wilderness therapy works as a treatment for ADHD by tackling the underlying factors that contribute to it, which in many cases are issues related to difficulty sleeping. Better sleep makes for better behavior.
To learn about wilderness therapy as an effective ADHD Treatment, contact Rites of Passage (800)794-0980.