Bedtime & Sleep

Why Bedtime is Always a Battle When Your Child Has ADHD

For children with ADHD and related conditions, feeling exhausted after a long day doesn’t necessarily mean feeling ready for bed. Many parents struggle to settle down their kids (and teens) at night, often at the expense of their own restorative rest. Here, ADDitude readers share the bedtime challenges that keep them up at night — literally. What would you add?

Bedtime Stories: Sleep Routine Challenges for ADHD Kids
A child with ADHD stays up late reading in bed with a flashlight as a sibling looks over his shoulder. His inconsistent routine has consequences for the whole family.

The Challenges of Maintaining a Bedtime Routine with ADHD

“Our children need a lot of stimulation — both physical and mental — to keep them on track all day. By the end of the day they are worn out and can’t concentrate anymore, so end-of-the-day tasks like getting ready for bed take a really long time.”

“Bedtime feels like the longest, most exhausting, part of our day. We always have a ‘ritual’ of tasks, like dimming the lights, before bed. We set timers, but we get distracted after they buzz. Relaxing the busy brain is a struggle, but we find that playing a semi-mindless game like solitaire can sometimes provide enough distraction to allow the kids to get to sleep.”

When it comes to enforcing a bedtime routine I am at a total loss. My two children are total opposites: One goes into hyper mode rand rejects anything that relates to sleep. The other requests a story, hates turning off the TV, and refuses to shower. Most nights, getting them both into bed turns into a three-hour process.”

“Anytime that time is involved is difficult. My son has no concept of how much time is passing and he just can’t resist continuing doing whatever it is that he’s engaged in or drifting through. Bedtime is the hardest for us because, by that point, I’m exhausted from my own day and less able to help!”

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“My child makes every step of the routine feel like a marathon. He needs to be reminded every day about simple tasks like brushing his teeth and getting together his school clothes for the next morning. Of course, the next morning it’s a domino effect and he’s unbearably grumpy if he didn’t sleep enough.”

Struggling to Settle Down (and Stay Down) with ADHD

“Moving from screen time to bedtime is a huge struggle. ‘Five more minutes!’ or ‘Just one more minute!’ often leads to a 30-minute power struggle. Then, once the screens go off, we find all the other things we want to do that don’t involve going to bed.”

“My son is super high-energy, so getting him to settle down to read for ‘10 minutes’ takes an hour. Compounding this is my own ADHD, which causes me to get distracted by all of his disorganization — the unflushed toilet in his bathroom or the mess in his room. Cleaning and lecturing inevitably follows, as more time ticks quietly away.”

“My 10 year old is so wired that it seems like he will never calm down and go to sleep. He gets out of bed 20 times at night and engages in long philosophical discussions with me about every little thing. I can ask him about his day four hours, but it seems he doesn’t want to discuss anything with me until after I’ve put him into bed.”

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“My son just can’t turn off his brain to get to bed at a decent time and it turns into excuses, stories, and anything else that can keep him up! We have tried so many things, but it takes an hour at the very least to get him to sleep!”

“He will find any excuse not to stay in his room and sleep in his bed. He comes out at least six times in the two hours after being tucked in and told goodnight. He always seems to forget something, no matter how much of a routine we set.”

When ADHD Delays Bedtime for the Whole Family

“For our family, the evening hours before bedtime are the hardest. It’s the time when I have less of me and they need more. That is when my sons are the most active and my five month old needs mom the most. I am trying to teach my boys that bedtime is quiet time and to have consideration for our neighbors, but they have a hard time winding down and it drives me crazy.”

“After supper, when my son’s medication has worn off, he gets really hyperactive and disobedient. He goes from one activity to the next and one toy to the next and doesn’t even sit still when playing with something. Once he becomes hyper, his little sister follows his lead, which increases his activity all the more… and so on!”

“The time between dinner and bedtime is trickiest for us. Balancing homework and bathing for all of the kids with cleaning up dinner, prepping lunches, and packing backpacks for the next day is very difficult. There is only so much of me to go around, but if I am not paying close attention to my child with ADHD, she veers off track and it pushes back bedtime for everyone”

“I have three kids, ages 11, 13, and 16. The older two are twice exceptional with ADHD. They are so hard to put to bed and so reluctant to adhere to any routine. I’m beyond exhausted from all the negotiations and I can’t sleep myself when they are rattling around the house.”

“It can be very tiring and frustrating to try to get my son to bed. He always fights sleep and stays up as late as he can. I always feel that I can’t go to sleep myself until I know that he’s asleep, so it can make me feel tired and sleep deprived sometimes as well.”

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Updated on May 10, 2019

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