How To Get Bedtimes Aligned with ADHD

I posted recently about bed times and got several questions about how to get bedtimes aligned better.  I work with couples on this issue with great regularity - those with ADHD often go to bed late, while exhausted non-ADHD partners often go to bed early.  Couples miss out on good time to connect when they hit the bedroom at different times.  Here are some ideas to help:

Make the Bedroom a "Safe Zone"

You need to understand why it is you aren't going to bed at the same time.  My husband used to avoid going to bed with me because he was concerned I would start talking with him about tough, emotional issues.  Some non-ADHD partners note that by evening time their partner's ADHD medication has worn off and he or she is more emotional than usual, and easy to trigger.  For all of these reasons, make the bedroom a place of serenity for you both.  In fact, I would suggest you go one step further.  Make the bedroom an INVITING place to be, both in its physical surroundings and in the emotional tenor of the people who are in it (that's YOU!)

Commit to Connection

For many couples the hour right before bedtime is literally the only time the household is fairly peaceful.  That time, therefore, becomes prime connection time.  It also becomes a great time to get work done...So, you will want to sit down and have a conversation about your individual needs and negotiate how to balance them.  Every couple needs time to connect - so if you are a partner who also feels a strong need to work at night, then make sure that there is adequate time to connect at other times of the day (morning, weekends, lunches...whatever works in your schedule.)  If you aren't getting enough connect time, and can't find time in your schedule to create some, then my bias is to put aside the work and spend some time in the bedroom.  As I suggested, evenings can be a good time for positive, safe interactions.

It Doesn't Have to Be About Sex

Many struggling with ADHD have sex lives filled with tension - and sometimes not filled with sex.  But that shouldn't stop you from connecting.  Non-sexual ways to connect include reading in bed together (touching); doing a crossword puzzle together; talking about your day; telling each other what you are grateful for that day (GREAT idea!); quietly cuddling for about 10 minutes; catching up.  Things to avoid:  in-depth planning; emotional or disturbing conversations; things that trigger anger in you or your partner.

Try The 'Sacred Bedtime' Routine

Something that many of my clients find helpful is an idea I call 'sacred bedtime.'  This means you both go to the bedroom and prepare for bed at the time that the earlier-to-bed partner goes to bed, and be together and connect for a while, however you do that.  Then, when the earlier-to-bed partner wants to turn out the lights, the later-to-bed partner can either stay in bed or get out of bed again and do something else.  This helps create time to connect, without committing the night-owl to a 9:30pm bed time!

Create a Routine for Coming to Bed Late

Some nights one of you will have to be up later.  Create a routine so that this person doesn't wake up the earlier-to-bad partner.  In our household I turn out the lights and close the door when I'm ready to sleep.  George uses his cell phone light to find his way to the bathroom and to bed when he comes in later.

It Doesn't Have to Be Every Night

The litmus test, in my mind, is that a couple has enough time to connect with each other, and bedtime is a critical time to be together.  But you don't have to be in bed at the same time every night.  Acknowledging that each person has the right to choose their bedtime is important, too. We tend to go in waves - we'll have a string of nights when we are both in the bedroom at the same time, then some nights when we aren't.  If these latter get too numerous, I might (or might not) tell my husband that I miss cuddling with him and ask if he might join me earlier.  If we have a larger issue - that we aren't getting enough time to connect with each other - then we'll talk about that (NOT at night in the bedroom!!!) and include bedtime as just one option for when to connect.

Reach Out and Tell Your Partner You Love Him or Her

I've heard from some partners how unhappy they are if their partner (usually ADHD) doesn't remember to say good night or "I love you" at the end of the day.  My recommendation?  Reach out to your partner and tell them you love them, or say goodnight...and you'll likely get a reply.  Bedtime isn't a 'test.'  It's about connecting and ending your day on a comfortable or happy note.  Take the initiative - don't be stingy with gratitude, love, cuddling or nice words at the end of the day!