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How ADHD Makes a Good Night’s Sleep Seem Like a Dream

Even with ADHD medication, some (long) nights, my daughter, Natalie, has sleep problems.

Like many children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Natalie often has trouble sleeping. In the old days, the problem was that she couldn’t fall asleep. We solved that with medication. Natalie takes clonidine about an hour before bedtime, though a lot of kids with ADHD take melatonin. It works well, though she still wakes up in the middle of the night once or twice a month and can’t get back to sleep. Last night was one of those nights.

Around 3:00 a.m. she crawled into bed with me.

Me: Can’t sleep?

Nat: No. Can I have your spot? Please? You can have your pillows.

I scootch over.


Nat: I’m thirsty. Can I have a drink please?

I go get her a drink.

Nat: Is it cold?

Me: Yes.

Me, in my head: I don’t know. Just drink it!

I put the glass on the nightstand next to the bed when she’s done.

Nat: I’m all the way finished with it!

Like I’m supposed to take the glass back to the bathroom? I think. Not happening.


Nat: I’d better go to the bathroom so I don’t wet the bed, because I’m not wearing underwear! Giggle.

Me, in my head: She never wets the bed, and if she did, would underwear make any difference?

She walks to the bathroom, one arm raised, undies swinging in quick circles from one finger.

Nat: It’s 3:04. Is that the middle of the night?

Me: Yes.

Nat: It’s the middle of the night! M-O-G!

Translation: It’s the middle of the night! OMG!

Nat comes back to bed.


Nat: Could you close the blinds the rest of the way please? I like it dark when I’m sleeping.

I get up and close the blinds, which I’d left up a couple of inches to let in fresh air from the open windows. I close the door, too, for good measure. I see no discernible difference in the room’s light.

Back in bed.

Me: Goodnight, sweet angel.

Nat: Goodnight.


Nat: I stopped laughing.

Me: You were laughing?

Nat: When you tickle me. I don’t laugh anymore. See?

Nat shoves one foot in my face. I tickle. No response.

Me: Do you want some Benadryl? (Our pediatrician has approved an occasional dose of Benadryl when Nat can’t sleep.)

Nat: No thanks.


Nat: Yes, I want some Benadryl please.

I get it.

Back in bed. Silence.

Nat, in a whisper: Let’s do it! Let’s do it! Let’s do it, do it, do it! Let’s do it! Let’s do it! Let’s do it! Let’s win! Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday! Let’s do it! Let’s win!








Nat: I have an itch.

Me: So do I.

Nat: Mine’s on my butt!

Me: Mine’s on my right foot.

Nat: Go ahead and itch it.

Me: I did, with my left foot.


Nat: Let’s do it! Let’s do it!…

My alarm goes off at 6:15 a.m., and I reach over to turn it off, careful not to wake Natalie. But she isn’t there! I pad out into the hallway and crack open the door to her room. I can’t see her — it’s still too dark — but I hear her slow, regular, deep breathing.

Did I imagine the whole thing? I wonder, heading back to my room. But no, there’s Nat’s polar bear Pillow Pet on the bed. There’s the empty glass on the nightstand. When did she leave?

I turn on the shower, step in. Running through my head: Let’s do it! Let’s do it! Let’s do it, do it, do it!

This is gonna be a long day.