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The Effect of ADHD on Sleep


While focusing on how attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can affect your child’s activities during the day, it’s sometimes easy to forget its impact at night. But, how does the symptoms of ADHD affect your child’s sleep? Presently, researchers are still examining the links between ADHD and sleep. Although they haven’t fully understood the causes of sleep issues in children with ADHD, they already have some understanding of the relationship between ADHD and poor sleep. Generally, it’s common for children and even adults with ADHD to have issues falling asleep, staying asleep and also waking up in the morning. You may be noting the following things if your child with ADHD is having sleep issues:

  • Your child may find it difficult to settle down at night.
  • All through the night, your child may be restless and this can either disrupt sleep or awaken your child.
  • Even after your child goes to bed, he/she may find it hard to stop thinking about things while attempting to sleep.

There are certain tendencies among children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder which can prevent them from having a good night sleep such as:

  • They may have issues with self-regulation and this prevents them from shifting from their active mode to a wind-down mode in preparation to sleep at the end of the day.
  • Children with ADHD also tend to put off some of their tasks like their homework until the last minute. Consequently, this leads to a more hectic evening at home which affects sleeping time.
  • Many children with ADHD have anxiety issues and such anxious feelings usually emerge at night when there are fewer activities to distract them. Consequently, this makes it challenging for them to fall asleep or stay asleep.
  • Children with ADHD are usually more prone to bedwetting, sleep disorders like restless leg syndrome and nightmares.
  • Teens with ADHD may actually notice that they feel more productive during night time hours that are often quiet. They can easily slip into the habit of frequently staying up late.

These are some of the night-time challenges that usually create issues during the day and can result in sleepiness in the morning and also difficulties in getting started and being alert during the day. This in turn leads to irritability and more inattentiveness. It’s a cycle that’s difficult to break, however, there are some tips to help you stop it and even prevent it from happening in the first place. Some of the tips include:

Start by observing your child’s sleep schedule and routines

– The starting point is to observe your child; does your child have problems settling into sleep at night and look tired during the day? Take note of your child’s pattern of getting to sleep, sleeping and awakening patterns.

Create bedtime routines for your child

– You need to start the process early in the evening. Creating a bedtime routine can take some time, however, it’s crucial that you establish one because it will give your child a healthy sleep cycle.

Ensure that your child is exposed to natural daylight and daytime noises just to establish regular cues.

No caffeine in the evening

– Your child should not take anything caffeine and this includes foods which contain caffeine like chocolate.

Maintain a consistent bedtime routine

– Once you’ve established a bedtime routine for your child, ensure that the routine follows a particular order every night. A good example would be taking a shower, putting on the pyjamas, selecting the clothes to wear, packing a backpack for the next day and reading a book before sleeping.

Consider providing a white noise creator/generator for your child

– For some kids that are affected by sounds in the neighbourhood or at home, using a white noise creator or frequency generator is extremely helpful. There are various good apps and devices readily available which provide this quieter and calmer atmosphere.

Limit stimulating activities before bedtime

– It’s crucial to limit your child’s stimulating activities before bedtime, especially screen time. Part of the limits you should set include limits on how late your kid is allowed to use the laptop, tablet or smartphone. This rule should be applied to all your children to prevent your child with ADHD from feeling like they are being unfairly treated. While limiting stimulating activities, you can replace them with calming activities such as listening to soft music, and reading. Make sure that your home is quiet when bedtime approaches.

Spend some quality time

– (at least ten minutes) cuddling with your kid to create a sense of love and safety while helping them to calm down.

Assist your child to plan and prioritize homework

– Ensure that your child takes care of the most important tasks first. Help your child with organisational strategies by making use of a checklist for studying and homework. This can help your child stay on top of his work. This will in turn help your child finish her/his homework before bedtime. We shall look at various ways to help your child with school work in another section.

Deal with chronic anxiety

– You can ask your child whether she/he is worrying about things especially when they struggle to sleep and stay asleep. It’s possible that your child may be thinking about the things that either happened during the day or the things that might happen at home or school. It’s possible for you to help your child deal with worries if you can encourage your child to describe her worries. It may be advisable to see your doctor, a child psychologist or a counsellor, if these problems persist.

Good sleep is crucial for all kids, however, when they’re already having attention issues, then their challenges get compounded because of lack of sleep. So, you need to observe your children and note how they function during the day as well as how they sleep at night.

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We have been diagnosing and treating people with ADHD since 2009.

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