It is common for children with ADHD to experience issues around falling asleep, staying asleep and waking up on time for school and other important activities.
Below are our 9 top tips to help an ADHD child sleep better at night that will benefit the whole family.
Create Bedtime Routines For Your Child
Most people find it’s best to start the process early in the evening. Creating a bedtime routine can take some time, but it’s worth persevering with to give your child a healthy sleep cycle. Try to dim bright lights in your home at around the same time every day to get your child’s brain prepared for sleep.
Similarly, in the morning, ensure that (whenever possible) your child is exposed to natural daylight and daytime noises at the same time every day to establish regular cues.
Once you’ve created a bedtime routine for your child, follow it in the same order every night. ADHD can make this difficult, so if your child tends to veer away from the schedule, try to gently coax them back into it.
Limit Caffeine And Excessive Sugar
Chocolate contains caffeine, a stimulant that may interfere with ADHD medication. Some children are very sensitive to it. If you have noticed that chocolate has an adverse effect on your child, try to limit their intake or not allow it in hours leading up to bedtime.
Similarly, high sugar intake can increase hyperactivity in children. This can be difficult to monitor as we take in so much sugar without noticing. It’s something that’s worth bearing in mind if you notice your child is affected after consuming certain types of food and drink.
Assist Your Child To Plan And Prioritise Homework
ADHD can make organisation difficult and your child may need your help to organise their homework and other important tasks. Try to be involved in their homework and encourage them to complete it well before bedtime. Ensure that your child takes care of the most important task first. Help your child with organisational strategies by making use of a checklist for studying and homework. This can help your child to stay on top of their work.
Limit Stimulating Activities Before Bedtime
It’s a good idea 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 child 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.
Give Them Quality Time
Young children can become anxious at bedtime and worry about being left on their own. This may be part of the reason why your child plays up before bed, although they may not be able to understand or express it. It’s important for a child to feel reassured and you can do this by making bedtime a special time for both of you and spending quality time together. Your child may respond favourably to a few minutes of cuddles and talking or a bedtime story just before the light goes out. They may need to know that you’ll check on them later and that if they need you, you’ll be there for them.
Deal With Chronic Anxiety
Anxiety is a common symptom of ADHD in kids. If a child’s anxiety prevents them from sleeping, they will need your help in dealing with it. Start by talking to them about it and listening to their worries. Never brush off their anxieties as trivial; it doesn’t help and if something is big enough to prevent them from sleeping, in a child’s mind, it’s very significant indeed. In the quiet of the night, our minds can amplify our anxieties and this can be frightening for a child. It’s possible that your child may be thinking about the things that school. If anxiety persists, speak to your child’s school and make an appointment to see your doctor or a child psychologist about it.
In our blog The 7 Best Apps To Help Kids With ADHD Thrive, there are a couple of suggestions for apps that may support your child in getting to bed. Of course, the effectiveness of these apps will vary from child to child; for some, technology before bed is overstimulating, but for others, these apps could be really useful tools.
My life Medication
Is a meditation and mindfulness app with different activities designed to reduce anxiety, stress and help someone to sleep better. It’s a good introduction to mindfulness meditation which is an established ADHD treatment. This app is not just for ADHD and is also suitable for adults.
Yoga Or Tai Chi
There are some studies that suggest practising yoga or tai chi regularly may help to improve ADHD symptoms in children such as hyperactivity and anxiety. These activities encourage children to focus on their breathing and slow down their minds. Children may find it useful to apply these techniques if they find their racing mind is preventing them from sleeping.
Don’t Blame Yourself
Poor sleeping habits can be difficult to break and it can seem that just as you’ve got it under control, your child starts to struggle again. It’s important not to blame yourself. Sometimes, it makes no difference how great your bedtime routine is, or how many systems you’ve got in place. It’s not your fault and it doesn’t make you a bad parent. Just make sure that if it’s leaving you exhausted too, you make time to look after your own health.
As we said at the beginning, it’s not just ADHD children who struggle with sleep. Sleep disturbances are common for adults too. For more information about how ADHD can affect adult sleeping patterns, especially in recent times, see our blog about Coronasomnia and ADHD.
At The ADHD Centre, we offer Private ADHD Assessments for children (and adults) and ADHD treatments. To find out more about our services, please contact us on 0800 061 4276 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org