From time to time, every parent will deal with their child’s bedtime-stalling tactics and sleep. However, if your child has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD), getting them to settle down and get a good night’s rest can be challenging. So why do children with ADHD also have sleep problems? The answer is pretty simple. Children and teens with ADHD are hypersensitive to environmental stimuli, making it harder for them to settle down at bedtime. Racing thoughts, tempting screens, and ticking clocks tend to keep children, teens, and sometimes adults stay awake long into the night.
Solutions For ADHD Sleep Problems
According to a recent British research study, three times as many children with ADHD struggle to fall or stay asleep. However, there are strategies to help kids with ADHD overcome sleep problems. With the right teaching & preparation, you can train your child to settle down and be ready for sleep at bedtime. Here are a few things you can do to help your child get to sleep a little easier:
(No. 1) Try To Avoid Sleeping Pills
Many sleep aids work great for adults but not all have been adequately tested for effectiveness and safety in children. This includes melatonin and prescription sleeping pills. For children with ADHD who have a hard time falling asleep, doctors will sometimes prescribe clonidine. Even though the drug makes it easier to fall asleep, many kids who take it tend to wake up in the middle of the night.
(No. 2) Exercise Daily
Physical activity helps our bodies transition between the phases of sleep and increases the time we spend in deep sleep. It’s important to encourage your child with ADHD to exercise whether it’s riding a bike, jump roping, or playing a sport.
(No. 3) Stick To A Realistic Bedtime
You’ll want to keep a consistent bedtime during the week as well as the weekend. Allowing your child to stay up on Friday and Saturday nights will disrupt their circadian clock; resulting in something similar to jet lag on Monday. You may also want to accept the fact that your child may require less sleep than other kids their age. Putting your child to bed too early may cause them to be awake longer. So, finding the right bedtime that works for your child is key.
(No. 4) Create A Calming Bedtime Routine
A bedtime routine signals the brain and body to slow down and get ready for sleep. At least an hour before bedtime your child should start calming down by taking a bath, listening to music, reading, or doing some other relaxing activity. Another great way to prepare for sleep is reading to your child or telling them a bedtime story & don’t forget their favorite blanket or stuffed animal. Roughhousing, video games, violent TV shows, and any other stimulating activities should not be allowed right before bedtime.
(No. 5) Follow A Healthy Diet
Digestion, especially of foods containing caffeine or sugar, can keep your child up. So it’s a good idea to avoid eating and snacking two or three hours before bedtime. If they insist on eating at bedtime, give your child saltines, warm milk, or a little turkey, which contains tryptophan, a natural sleep-inducing chemical. To prevent the need for a glass of water at bedtime & trips to the bathroom later, make sure your child gets enough to drink during the day.
(No. 6) Keep The Room Dark
Not only does a darkened room cue the brain it’s time for sleep but it also eliminates the visual distractions that keep your child from falling asleep. If your child can’t see their toys, they are less likely to want to play with them. If your child is afraid of the dark, you’ll just want to make sure the night light is very dim and it’s set to turn off once they are asleep. You can reduce any light coming in from the windows by using blackout curtains.
Dealing With ADHD Sleep Problems: Get Help Today!
A child’s sleep problem isn’t easy to deal with, but it’s important to remember the end goal; a good night’s sleep! It’s best to take action sooner rather than later given the consequences of chronic sleep deprivation. As a parent, finding the root cause of the sleep problem is your first step. For more information and to speak with a sleep specialist regarding ADHD sleep problems, give Just Breathe DDS in Hayden, ID a call today at (208) 500-3030. We can help your child and your whole family sleep better and live better!
1 Sandoval, M., Leclerc, J. A. and Gómez, R. L. Words to Sleep On: Naps Facilitate Verb Generalization in Habitually and Nonhabitually Napping Preschoolers. Child Dev. (2017). doi:10.1111/cdev.12723
2 Axelsson, E. L., Swinton, J., Winiger, A. I., & Horst, J. S. Napping and toddlers’ memory for fast-mapped words. First Language (2018). https://doi.org/10.1177/0142723718785490