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ADHD and Sleep: Effects & Strategies for Parents

Tender scene of a child wrapped in a warm blanket, drifting into slumber
Table of Contents

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a kind of disorder that is characterized by problems with focus, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. ADHD can impact many different areas of someone’s life, including their sleep. People with ADHD often have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. This can lead to fatigue and daytime sleepiness.

5% of children in recent times suffer from ADHD, especially boys. It has been seen that approximately 25% to 50% of people with ADHD have sleep issues.

Why ADHD Makes Sleep Difficult?

The child's peaceful expression reflects the innocence of deep slumber

An approximate 7 – 8 hours of sleep is important for everyone. People with ADHD have difficulty getting this much sleep. This is mainly because of two factors: hyperactivity and impulsiveness. People with ADHD are constantly moving and they find it hard to relax. They also have a hard time resisting impulses, which can lead to them staying up later than they should.

Some of the other ways in which ADHD can make sleeping difficult for your child include:

Stimulants in medication

If your child takes medication for ADHD, it can often contain stimulants. These stimulants can make it difficult for your child to fall asleep and stay asleep. For instance, Ritalin is a stimulant that is often prescribed to children with ADHD.

Improper Sleep Hygiene

Children with ADHD often do not have good sleep hygiene. This means that they do not have regular bedtimes, they watch too much TV or use electronic devices right before bed, and they do not get enough exercise during the day.

All of these things can make it difficult for your child to fall asleep and stay asleep.

No set bedtime routine

Children with ADHD often do not have a regular bedtime routine. This can make it difficult for them to fall asleep and stay asleep. Thus, it is important to establish a bedtime routine for your child and stick to it as closely as possible.

Trouble waking up in the morning

Children with ADHD often have a hard time waking up in the morning. This is because they are tired from not getting enough sleep. They may also find it difficult to get out of bed because they are so used to sleeping in.

Difficulty in keeping a schedule

If your child is suffering from ADHD, they might always be easily distracted and have trouble sticking to a schedule. This can make it difficult for them to fall asleep and stay asleep since they will not be able to stick to a bedtime routine.

How Does Sleep Impact ADHD?

Close-up of a child in a cozy blanket, lost in the world of dreams

Now, ADHD has a profound impact on sleep, this seems to be an inversely proportional relationship. The lack of sleep also has an impact on ADHD.

Sleep deprivation can worsen the symptoms of ADHD. When someone is tired, they are more likely to become irritable and impulsive. They may also have trouble focusing and be more easily distracted. In children, sleep deprivation can lead to an increase in problems such as hyperactivity and poor academic performance.

It is important for people with ADHD to get a good night’s sleep, in order to lessen the symptoms of ADHD. In order to do this, they need to create a bedtime routine and stick to it as closely as possible. They should also avoid caffeine and other stimulants close to bedtime. And, if they are taking medication for ADHD, they should speak to their doctor about whether there are any sleep-friendly medications available.

Sleep Disorders in Children Related to ADHD

Some common sleep disorders witnessed in children related to ADHD are:

Insomnia

This is a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling and staying asleep. People with insomnia often find it hard to get the deep, restful sleep that they need. In children, insomnia can lead to problems such as hyperactivity and poor academic performance.

Narcolepsy

This is a sleep disorder that is characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness. People with narcolepsy often fall asleep suddenly and without warning. In children, narcolepsy can lead to problems such as poor academic performance and behavioral problems.

Parasomnia

This is a sleep disorder that is characterized by abnormal behavior or experiences that occur during sleep. This can include things such as sleepwalking, night terrors, and bedwetting. Children with ADHD are more likely to have parasomnia than children without ADHD.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

This is a sleep disorder that is characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. This can lead to a lack of oxygen and poor quality of sleep. Children with obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to have ADHD than children without obstructive sleep apnea.

Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders

A circadian rhythm sleep disorder that is characterized by a mismatch between the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle and the environment.

This can lead to problems such as difficulty falling asleep, sleep disturbance, excessive daytime sleepiness, and insomnia. Children with ADHD are more likely to have circadian rhythm sleep disorders than children without ADHD.

Restless Legs Syndrome

This is a sleep disorder that is characterized by an irresistible urge to move the legs. This can lead to problems such as difficulty falling and staying asleep. Children with ADHD are more likely to have restless leg syndrome than children without ADHD.

It is important for parents to be aware of these sleep disorders so that they can get their children the appropriate treatment. If your child is struggling with ADHD symptoms and also has a sleep disorder, seek help from a doctor. There may be medications or treatments available that can help.

How To Help Your Child With ADHD Get To Sleep?

Here are some tips that can help calm your child before they go to bed and get some restorative sleep:

Avoid Trigger Food and Exercise Every Day

Do your best to avoid giving your child any foods or drinks that contain caffeine. This includes soda, chocolate, and energy drinks. Try to also avoid scheduling heavy exercise for right before bedtime.

However, make sure your child gets to do their share of daily exercise. Exercise is important for children with ADHD as it can help to release energy and improve focus. try to find an exercise routine that your child enjoys and stick to it.

Create A Bedtime Routine

Establish a regular bedtime routine and stick to it as closely as possible. This can help signal to your child’s body that it is time for sleep. Some ideas for a bedtime routine include reading a book, taking a bath, and using relaxation techniques.

Encourage Relaxation Techniques

There are many different relaxation techniques that can help calm your child before bed. Some examples include deep breathing exercises, visualization exercises, and yoga.

Make The Room Dark And Quiet

Try to make your child’s bedroom as dark and quiet as possible. This will help create an environment that is conducive to sleep. Use thick curtains to block out the light or invest in a good noise machine to cover up any sounds that may be disruptive.

Use A White Noise Machine

If your child’s room is not very quiet, you can try using a white noise machine to drown out any distracting sounds. This will help your child focus on getting to sleep.

Monitor Screen Time

Limit your child’s screen time before bed. The blue light from screens can interfere with the production of melatonin, which is responsible for regulating sleep. Thus, screen time can disrupt your child’s sleep cycle.

Stick To A Proper Schedule

Make sure your child is going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. This will help regulate their body’s natural sleep rhythm. Kids with neurodevelopment disorders like ADHD often have difficulty with this.

Provide Comforting Items

Some children find comfort in having certain items in their bedroom when they sleep. This could be anything from a favorite blanket to a special toy. Allow your child to choose one or two items to have in their bedroom and make sure they are not disruptive to sleep.

Talk To Your Doctor About Sleep-Friendly Medications

If your child is taking medication for ADHD, speak to your doctor about whether there are any sleep-friendly medications available. Some medications that are often prescribed for ADHD, such as stimulants, can actually interfere with sleep.

Conclusion

If you are noticing that your child is struggling to sleep, or has sleep-disordered breathing, it is important to consult with a doctor. There may be an underlying sleep disorder that is causing the problem. There are many different treatments available for ADHD and sleep disorders, so don’t hesitate to seek help.

Sources:

WebMD. (n.d.). Ways ADHD can cause insomnia & sleep problems (and how to fix it). WebMD. Retrieved March 29, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/adult-adhd-and-sleep-problems

ADHD and sleep problems: How are they related? Sleep Foundation. (2022, March 11). Retrieved March 29, 2022, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/mental-health/adhd-and-sleep

8 sleep tips for kids with ADHD and asperger syndrome (ASD). Brain Balance Achievement Centers. (n.d.). Retrieved March 29, 2022, from https://www.brainbalancecenters.com/blog/sleep-tips-adhd-asperger-syndrome

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