What is ADHD?
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Someone with ADHD has differences in brain development and brain activity that affect attention, the inability to sit still, and self-control. ADHD can affect a child at school, at home, and can affect their friendships. Children with ADHD might show signs of inattention and being easily distracted, being hyperactive and fidgety, easily bored, or impulsive.
Children with ADHD have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up in the morning. If your little one is having trouble sleeping, you might notice:
- They have trouble settling down at night.
- Even when they’re in bed, they say that they can’t stop thinking about things when they’re trying to get to sleep.
- Throughout the night, they’re restless – this can disrupt their sleep, or even wake them up.
Why Does ADHD Stop Your Child from Getting A Good Sleep?
Children with ADHD can have certain tendencies that can keep them from getting a good sleep:
- They can have trouble with self-regulation. This can keep them from shifting from active-mode to relaxing-mode at the end of the day, so the mind is not ready to sleep.
- They are more prone to nightmares and bedwetting. Children with ADHD can also be at risk of developing sleep disorders, such as Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). You can read more about this, and the effects on sleep, here.
- Children with ADHD tend to put off doing homework or other tasks until the last minute. This will lead to a later, more hectic evening in your home.
- Teenagers with ADHD may report feeling more productive during quiet night-time hours. They can easily fall into the habit of staying up too late. Doing this often will stop them from getting the sleep they need.
- Children with ADHD also have troubles with anxiety. Anxious feelings can emerge at night when there are fewer distractions. This will make it hard for them to fall asleep and stay asleep.
All these challenges can create problems during the day, too. They obviously lead to sleepiness in the morning, and this can make it hard to get started and stay alert all day. This’ll lead to irritability, inattentiveness, and difficulty concentrating – making school and learning harder than it would normally be.
As good sleep is important to all children, it’s a good idea to observe your child during the day so that you can help them sleep well at night.
Tips for Helping Children with ADHD And Poor Sleep
The good news is that there are things you can do to help ease the disturbances to sleep.
Monitor your child’s sleep schedule and routines. Keep track of their patterns of getting to sleep, staying asleep, and any time they wake up during the night. This is also a good idea for something to discuss with the doctor, as they can get a good idea for how to best help your little one.
Encourage exercise after school. Children and teenagers who don’t get enough exercise will often have trouble getting to sleep at night. Taking them for a walk or getting them to join an after-school activity will help them release some of that energy.
Start a bedtime routine. Establishing a bedtime routine can take a while, but it’s important in creating a healthy sleep cycle. Begin the process early in the evening and fill the time with relaxing activities. This can be something like a relaxing bath, changing into pyjamas, maybe a quick snack, and finishing with a bedtime story before your child goes to sleep. It’s important that you’re consistent with this, every night.
Reduce stimulating activities before bedtime. This is especially important when it comes to using phones, laptops, tablets, or watching TV. The use of screen time should be limited before bedtime as the blue light emitted from these screens can disrupt the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Encourage them to read a book instead or listen to music.
Avoid caffeine in the evening. This includes foods that contain caffeine, such as chocolate, ice-cream, and soft drinks.
Help your child plan and prioritise homework. More important homework should get done first – such as homework that has a closer deadline than others. Help them with organisation; this can be something as easy as a checklist for homework. Having a checklist to stick to will help them stay on top of their work, and it’ll also make homework seem less challenging as your child can see their progress each time they tick a box.
Talk to your child. If your child often struggles to get to sleep or stay asleep, ask them if there’s anything worrying them. They could be thinking about something that’s happened, or something they’re worried might happen in the future.
These are some useful ideas for helping your child at home, but the best way to help your child with ADHD is to consult a doctor. They will be able to discuss medication and the effects of some medication on sleep, as this could be causing poor sleep for your child. Plus, you can also mention any breathing problems, such as snoring, to your doctor and they can decide the best way to help your child get a good sleep.