What you should know about ADHD and your child's sleep

ADHD symptoms and sleep problems are no strangers to children and their caregivers. However, there are some proven strategies to help kids feel well-rested. In this post, we look at a few of them and discuss a viable alternative that you might want to consider in tandem or in addition to these tips.

First, you should know that many studies on the subject suggest that ADHD can cause difficulty sleeping. For instance, data from 2014 indicate that 50–95% of children with neurodevelopmental disorders, including ADHD, have sleep disturbances.

Behavioral insomnia is cited as the most common cause. This means insomnia caused by bedtime habits and behavior, as opposed to an underlying medical condition or medication. This issue may cause children to resist sleep, wake up frequently, or need more help from caregivers to fall asleep.

Several factors may contribute to insomnia in children with ADHD, including sleep hygiene, caregiver fatigue and mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. While this might sound discouraging, rest assured there are many ways to help kids with ADHD get to sleep more easily. They include:

Bedtime routines
Children sometimes try to stall to avoid going to sleep. Think asking to go to the bathroom or asking for food or a glass of water. Addressing these types of needs before bed, as part of a checklist can help diffuse the situation.

Children can behave this way for many reasons. For instance, it may be due to bad dreams, the dark, or simply the fear of their caregiver leaving them. This is called separation anxiety. It’s normal in young children.

Reducing anxiety around can help both the children and caregiver. You might consider:

  • Installing a night light
  • Giving the child a comfort object, such as a stuffed animal
  • Teaching them self-soothing techniques
  • Discussing and allaying their worries during the daytime, not in the evening
  • If nightmares are preventing sleep in older children, it may help to ask a doctor for a referral

Prioritize sleep hygiene
Where possible, try to make sure the bedroom is calm, cool, and quiet. Allow the child to weigh in, as they know what’s best for them. Some children might find comfort in getting a story read to them before bed or even listening to calming music.

In regards to the latter, try to discourage children from using screens in bed. The blue light can trigger alertness. In the same vein, caregivers should ensure the child avoids caffeine a few hours before bedtime. Physical activity should be planned for earlier in the day, while calming ones like reading and baths can help send a signal to the body and brain that it’s time for rest.

What you should know about ADHD and your child's sleep

Other considerations
When it comes to getting a child with ADHD to bed, you might wonder if the use of melatonin is acceptable. Not so fast! A person should not give melatonin to a child unless a doctor recommends it. This is because these supplements qualify as a medication, which means they can interact with other drugs and cause side effects.

Speaking of side effects, it’s natural to worry how your child might respond to drugs, whether over-the-counter or prescription. The good news is other options are both effective and safe. As a parent, you want what’s best for your kid but sometimes there’s so much information out there, you don’t know where to start.

No fear, we’re here to help you in your quest for answers. Neurofeedback, also known as EEG Biofeedback, is a non-invasive alternative to medication and can help address ADHD and its symptoms. It is painless, drugless, free of harmful side effects and produces noticeable improvements that can enhance the effect of other traditional therapies. Learn more here.