Sleep and Exercise for those with PTSD and/or ADD/HD

One of the most important but neglected areas for all of us, babies, children, adolescents, adults and elders, is sleep. We all crave it, but many of us get little of it. Believe it or not, sleep is even better than sex. While sex increases our serotonin level and makes us feel good, sleep allows our body to replenish and start anew. If we don’t get enough sleep, we are grouchy, frazzled, complain quite a bit, become lousy decision makers and terrible to be around. The next most important area is exercise. It improves our general function, increases our serotonin level, makes us feel good, and allows us to function better on a daily basis.

Many are reading this and thinking:

I know that, I have read it before, my friends have told me, my doctor has told me, the TV has told me, and I have heard about the benefits of exercise and sleep since I was in elementary school. However, I am busy, always working, need to make a living, have no time for that, it is only for children, or any other excuse. Exercise and sleep are almost as avoided as the plague. After all, who has time for all that, when we all need to make a living and support our families?

Those with ADD/HD and PTSD need even more sleep than others. ADDers always have their brains busy doing something, so they feel that they don’t have time to sleep. PTSDers try to avoid sleep, because of their terrifying dreams. However, their bodies still require the sleep, even though they fight against it.

Let’s go to the steps that can be taken:

Exercise is a great way of distributing nutrients throughout your body, and it helps make you tired so that you can sleep at night. Remember, exercise helps change the serotonin levels in the brain, to assist you in stress management. Exercise also makes you feel better; it decreases the frustrations, is good for mood disorders and all around makes you easier to get along with. It also helps with your heart, muscles and genes, and other major body parts.

Sleep helps your brain relax and fix what is necessary. When it is not running your life, it is checking on your metabolism, helping store the thoughts and nuances of the day. Not only that, but it keeps a record of everything, which is why you can remember things. If you don’t get enough sleep, it affects your memory, which is consistent with what those with PTSD and ADD/HD report.

The Circadian rhythm is something with which many are not familiar. It is the name given to the “internal body clock” that regulates the (approximately) 24-hour cycle of biological processes and it is controlled by the hypothalamus (an area of your brain). The term circadian comes from Latin words that literally mean, “around the day.” There are patterns of brain wave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration, and other biological activities linked to this 24-hour cycle. (1)

That said, outside factors like lightness and darkness can also impact it. When it is dark at night, your eyes send a signal to the hypothalamus that it’s time to feel tired. Your brain, in turn, sends a signal to your body to release melatonin, which makes your body sleepy. That’s why your circadian rhythm tends to coincide with the cycle of daytime and nighttime (and why it’s so hard for night shift workers to sleep during the day and stay awake at night).

Your circadian rhythm works best when you have regular sleep habits, like going to bed at night and waking up in the morning around the same times from day to day (including weekends). When things get in the way, like jet lag, daylight savings time, or a compelling sporting event on TV that keeps you up into the wee hours of the morning, you can disrupt your circadian rhythm, which makes you feel out of sorts and can make it harder to pay attention. (2)

How can you get a decent night’s sleep? How does one measure a decent night’s sleep? That is hard to do, since we are all different. However, a good rule of thumb is about eight (8) hours a night. (remember, some may need more and others less). Some ideas for sleeping at night are:

No TV in the bedroom

Avoid large meals right before bed

Use the bed only for sleeping/resting

Don’t use the cell phone and keep bright lights off

No exercise at least 1.5 hours prior to sleep – it tends to wake up areas of your brain

Always do the same thing every night; be consistent and don’t deviate.

These are just a number of ways of getting sleep with ADD/HD and PTSD. Whatever works for you, is great. However, you need to sleep and if you don’t get the sleep, that is when problems can begin.

Good luck and good night!!


1. Hines, J. (n.d.). 6 Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders that May Be Disrupting Your Sleep. Retrieved March 19, 2019, from

2. What is Circadian Rhythm? (n.d.). Retrieved March 19, 2019, from

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