Our monthly Adult ADHD Salon in Palo Alto ran late Wednesday night, as usual.
(Call me an ADHD nerd, but this group is the social highlight of my month. We have fascinating conversations. Yes, one conversation among about 25 people with ADHD. It happens! And, it’s always great to cheer progress reports.)
So, I was a little fuzzy-headed the next morning when I read this story in our local paper: The Quantified Self: Taking quantum leap in self-examination. [article is no longer online]
It caught my attention, because one immense ADHD-related challenge is self-monitoring. This poses a liability when you are trying to figure out, for example:
- How you landed in certain surprising (at least to you) circumstances
- How you come across to others
- What you ate for breakfast
- What time you fell asleep and awakened
- How well you’re following through on a routine you’ve set for yourself
The Quantified Self
Leave it to Silicon Valley’s geeks (including the ones who have ADHD but don’t know it—or don’t want to know it). They’ve come up with an entire self-monitoring movement where, as the story explains:
Individuals measure the minutia of moods, weight, pain, muscle mass, even their innermost thoughts, in an effort to know themselves better and improve their lives.
The general movement is called the Quantified Self. If you want to dig in, this looks like a very helpful site: Quantified Self.
Reportedly, the term dates to 2007 San Francisco. That’s when Wired magazine editors Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly used quantified self to described “a collaboration of users and tool makers who share an interest in self knowledge through self-tracking.” The current Bay Area Meetup Quantified Self group numbers 4,379.
All this sounds great. We can’t hit targets without first identifying them. Yet, without bringing neurophysiological information to bear, this amassed minutiae might have severe limits. After 20 years of living in Silicon Valley and leading Adult ADHD groups, I’ve learned: Being software-savvy does not translate to being neuroscience-savvy.
Re-Inventing The Wheel?
Bo Adler is a leader in this geek elite “Quantified Self “movement. The story (that’s no longer available) begins by relating how conventional medicine has offered no good treatment for his long-standing sleep problems:
So when young computer scientist goes to bed each night, he conducts his own one-man research study, determined to find secrets to restful slumber….
Interpreting the data from his Sunnyvale apartment, the Cal Tech-educated Adler seeks to identify lifestyle factors — Pepsi? Worry? A girlfriend’s visit? — that might correlate with restlessness.
“Doctors just follow the recipe books. That is not helpful,” he said. “Everybody is different. Maybe there are things that are specific about me.”
Sleep: a Newly Burgeoning Science
Sleep is a complex subject, especially in this Age of Distraction. Moreover, it is only in recent years that we are making important discoveries about why we sleep.
Adler sets an example for us all by pro-actively monitoring and managing his own health. A good physician requires data.
Yet, what if your sleep challenges aren’t specific to you but instead are specific to a large subset of people with ADHD? (I wrote about this topic in this blog post, To Sleep, Perchance to Turn Off That *&$@#” Computer,” which drew many validating comments.)
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I agree with Adler that “conventional doctors” aren’t always so helpful in such matters. That’s especially true if they have no clue about the connection between ADHD and sleep challenges—and even some alleged ADHD experts remain clueless.
The typical “sleep hygiene” tips just don’t always work with untreated ADHD. At not without a strategic plan for making it happen.
To make matters worse, the Stanford Sleep Medicine Center’s has maintained seemginly willful denial of ADHD-related sleep challenges. That is, it’s more likely to put the cart before the horse: attributing ADHD symptoms to sleep deprivation.
(Note: Please be sure to read Adler’s comment below for clarification; and you can read his “Suggestions for Sleep Apnea Self-Experiment”)
The question remains: Will sleeping with electrodes affixed to one’s head and analyzing the resulting database provide all the necessary answers? When it comes to possible ADHD, possibly not— if contributing neurogenetic factors, aren’t considered.
What do you think? What’s your experience of ADHD and sleep—in yourself or a loved one?
An earlier version of this post appeared June, 2010