Dinos has helped me with technology before, one of my many weak spots. He has generously agreed to contribute some posts. Enjoy!
Using Technology To Outsmart ADHD
I’m not sure how many other people can relate to this, but when I think of myself as an individual struggling with ADHD, I think of it something along the lines of this:
There’s the “me” I want to be
There’s the other me. The guy with ADHD. The guy who’s impulsive, forgetful, frequently unmotivated, unreliable, etc. You know. ADHD-me.
Most of my life has been a constant struggle trying to control the other, “ADHD me” and oh man it’s been a mess. That guy has NO boundaries. Or respect for other people’s time.
So instead of trying to control ADHD-me, I’ve instead tried to adopt another strategy: trying to outsmart him.
Specifically, I’ve been using technology to shape my external environment to better facilitate desirable behaviors and outcomes. I’m literally modifying my behavior by externalizing behavioral and environmental cues! (Yay behavioral sciences!) The ideal is that I’m more able to rely on my environment to tell me what I need to do instead of relying on my executive functioning/will power.
Here is one example.
My brain and body don’t do sleepy-time well. OR wakey-time, for that matter. This is a problem because sleep debt is not conducive to my day-to-day executive functioning and emotional well-being. What I think happens is that I get so focused on tasks at night (e.g. video games, researching random things on the internet, etc.), I literally forget that I’m supposed to be asleep. And because I’m so focused on the task, I don’t care. As you can imagine, waking up is even worse than trying to fall asleep with a mind that won’t stop chasing its tail.
Stop relying on your brain/executive functioning/circadian rhythm to tell you when you should be going to sleep and waking up. Your ADHD brain is going to fail you. Instead, externalize the responsibility by using your environment as behavioral cues that it’s bedtime and you’re getting sleepy—and that it’s morning and the sun’s out. Stop forcing yourself through sheer willpower to try and go to bed or wake up.
Smart light bulbs! These things are awesome.
So here’s what happens in the morning: at a time that I specify (say, 5:00am), the smart light bulbs installed in my ceiling come on at 1%. They’re super dim. As the morning progresses to a set time (say, 5:30am), the lights gradually get brighter and brighter until they’re at 100% brightness. THE POWER OF THE SUN IS IN MY BEDROOM and that’s really hard to ignore, unlike my phone’s many alarm clocks. But here’s the magic: because the bulbs are gradually and slowly getting brighter, my body’s given a chance to finish up its last REM cycle phases so I don’t wake up angry and groggy.
At nighttime, at a specified time (say, 9:00pm) the light bulbs in my apartment dim a little—from 100% to 99%. And then they slowly get dimmer and dimmer until it’s 9:30 and then they all shut off. Bedtime.
The dimming of the light bulbs is sub-consciously working as an environmental cue to start wrapping up my night without requiring me to utilize my already-spent willpower to make myself to go to bed. And believe it or not, the dimming of the bulbs actually does make me pretty sleepy as those 30 minutes progress.
These are the lightbulbs that I bought: https://www2.meethue.com/en-us/get-started
Note that there are cheaper alternatives out there but in my research these have been the easiest and most pleasant to set up.
Bonus: regarding good sleep hygiene, technology isn’t all that great. The blue light emitted by the screens we’re looking at all day/night suppress melatonin suppression (cite)—not great when trying to go to sleep.
The good news: there’s a strategy for that. There are programs that you can download on your computer (PC/Mac) that make the color of your computer’s display adapt to filter out this blue light, depending on the time of day. My favorite piece of software to do this is currently f.lux—it even tracks when the sun rises and sets to optimize this transition.
Extra Bonus: The newest versions of our mobile devices (Android/iOS) also have something similar built-in called “Night Mode” or “Night Shift” that will also filter out some of this blue light. If you’re using an older phone that doesn’t have it, there are a couple different apps you can download—hit the comments and let me know what you have.
Note O the Day:
I‘ll welcome other guest posts if you’d also like to contribute. They don’t need to be perfect; I will do editing if needed. And of course, your comments are always very welcome.