ADHD and Sleep: Organizing Your Brain

What do I mean—organizing your brain, deep-pressure receptors?   What does this have to do with ADHD and sleep?  I can explain.

I slept 10 hours the other day—quite unusual for me. Lazing in bed that morning, I contemplated my new mattress topper. Could it be the reason?

Then, I remembered an interview I did many years ago with Patricia Quinn, MD on the topic of ADHD and sleep. She explained how “swaddling” helps babies to go to sleep because it “organizes” their brain:

The tight wrapping provides feedback through their joints; those deep-pressure receptors stimulate the brain and help to organize it.

Perhaps that’s what happened to me. That cushy-but-supportive mattress topper activated my apparently long-neglected “deep-pressure receptors.” That’s certainly how it felt, anyway.

Later, I happened across this intriguing solution for babies whose sleep might benefit the “deep-pressure” this suit provides: It’s called the Magic Merlin, and is available at Amazon.

Multi-Faceted ADHD Sleep Challenges

ADHD-related sleep challenges are many and varied. Being an “early adapter” on this topic, I wrote this blog post from 2009 (ADHD and Sleep: Puzzling the Pieces).

The post drew many comments from adults with ADHD and motivated me to write a few articles. For more than a decade, it’s remained a big topic of discussion in my local Adult ADHD group

As for my good sleep the other night, it’s not ADHD-related per se. But, from my perspective, ADHD is essentially “Extreme Human Syndrome”. That is, there’s nothing about ADHD that isn’t found in the rest of the human population. It’s a matter of degree. So, whether you have ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, sensory processing disorder, or the typical effects of human aging, this “deep-pressure” aspect is worth paying attention to.

Even though we have a “Sleep Comfort” bed, which my husband likes just fine, I’ve never found it comfortable. Decrease the sleep number, and there’s little support. Crank it up to 100, and this side-sleeper awakens with sore shoulders and hips. Purchasing a twin-size topper, just for my side, seemed the solution.

Organize Your Brain for Sleep

Here’s the thing: My husband seems to get that “deep-pressure receptor” action from piling on the covers. (He emanates heat but it never awakens him. In the warmer months, I actually place ice packs strategically, to displace the heat!)

Many adults with ADHD have told me they will crank up the AC so they can “weight themselves down” with a heavy blanket or quilt. Some parents will use weighted blanket for their children with ADHD and/or autism. This one looks promising.  Note, t these blankets typically require hand-washing.    Or, you can try making your own:


Not All Mattress Toppers Created Equally

The old memory foam toppers tended to contain heat, making for uncomfortable sleep. And, I must say, this Sleep Comfort bed is hotter than regular beds. But this mattress topper is allegedly designed to be cooler. I still find it warm but maybe newer versions are better.

The first morning, I did awaken early due to being too hot. But the next night, I simply slept with a lighter blanket—trading the “pressure” from above with one from below—and was fine. That’s the 10-hour sleep night. Felt like I was back in high school!

So, are you are one of these people who sleeps better with a heavy blanket but find it too hot—or too costly to pay for the AC? You might want to look into this or similar mattress topper.  In my case at least, it doesn’t seem to matter from which direction the “pressure” is coming:  the weight of a blanket or every joint being cradled in the foam.

I would love to hear your questions and solutions around ADHD and Sleep. 



4 thoughts on “ADHD and Sleep: Organizing Your Brain”

  1. For many years I slept with heavy blankets piled high. The heavier the better.

    I have also tried the sleep number bed and although I initially liked it, I quickly grew to loathe it for the same reasons you spoke of: sore shoulders and hips and the seeming inability to find Goldlocks’ sweet number.

    Which brings me to my current situation. I ditched the weight of blankets and have been sleeping on a true memory foam mattress (not a “topper”) for the past 5 years and it too has about gotten on my last (sleepless) nerve.

    A – H A !

    Reading your story produced an A-HA! moment for me — because I recently, and accidentally, started doing this and I just realized that, reading your comments, although it doesn’t make an enormous difference in the quality or quantity of my sleep, it does help me fall asleep a little faster. (Bonus for an A.D.D. brain!)

    The A-Ha! I recently bought a new bedspread for my bed and one day as I was placing fresh sheets and blankets on it, the OCD part of my brain had me tucking everything in. EVERYTHING. Military style. Seriously. You could bounce a quarter off it everything was tucked in that tight.

    I liked the way my bed bed looked, and it contributed to the overall look of my bedroom as I was in the process of redecorating it, so tucking everything in became a habit. At night I just peel one corner of the covers back and slide into my “swaddle”.

    I am fortunate in that I currently sleep solo — I don’t think the average person would understand my envelope, nor do I believe I want to share it!

    1. Hi Carrie,

      I’m so happy that this blog post produced an “a-ha” moment.

      I was starting to wonder if I was in left field. lol!

      Growing up, we definitely had “hospital corners” and tucked-in sheets. Now that you mention it, I remember sliding my legs into that somewhat tight “envelope” in the cold winter months, and feeling somewhat “settled.”

      I wonder if this is a wholesale cultural change, and might even account to seemingly increased sleep problems. At least, in part, with all the other myriad factors.

      Thanks for writing,

  2. Veronica Knaflic

    Being an ADHD person I’ve always had problems to quiet my mind at night, to start I took prescribed sleep medication for 2 years before it became ineffective. After reading Dr. Amen’s book about ADHD in reference to sleep disorders I have been sleeping like a baby. I only have to take 1 GABA (500mg) and 2 Valerian pills to feel tired, want to go sleep and do it. My sleep has become better I actually wake up rested. I’m able to work with my anxiety, I feel like a different person. I sure recommend Dr. Amen’s book ‘Healing ADD’.

    1. Thanks for the tip, Veronica. I, too, am fan of “Healing ADD,” one of the first solid books I found on the topic years ago.

      Glad you are getting good sleep. It makes a world of difference!


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Stay in Touch!
Ride the ADHD Roller Coaster
Without Getting Whiplash!
Receive Gina Pera's award-winning blog posts and news of webinars and workshops.
P.S. Your time and privacy—Respected.
No e-mail bombardment—Promised.
No Thanks!