Bedtime & Sleep

Say Good Night to Your Child’s ADHD Sleep Challenges

Tips and tricks for how to help extreme kids sleep.

Bedtime for most kids is a pain, but trying to calm and soothe your child with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) into a deep sleep sometimes seems impossible.

In our house, our son (who has several diagnoses, including ADHD) takes close to three hours to finally settle down enough to go to sleep. From asking anxious questions to having excess energy, he does his best to avoid sleep.

Here are some tricks for how to help your ADHD child get the rest he seeks—and you some much-needed peace and quiet.

Regular exercise, but not before bed

Any parent of a child with ADHD knows the importance of allowing him to burn energy. However, you don’t want him to do this right before a period of calm because the brain chemicals released by exercise will fuel his ability to remain alert.

Our family schedules “P.E. time” around 4:00 p.m. This allows our son to run around, ride his bike, and play outside. If it is cold or rainy, we might do an indoor obstacle course, kid’s yoga, or an active game or workout.

[Free Download: Sleep Solutions for Kids with ADHD]

Scheduling physical activity three hours before we start thinking about calming down for bedtime allows his body to burn off necessary amounts of energy while allowing time to decompress before our nighttime routine begins.

Keep a consistent routine

It sometimes takes our son an hour to fully calm himself for sleep even after we’ve started our routine. So our bedtime schedule is predictable and repetitive: brush teeth, use the bathroom, change for bed, read a book, say prayers, and so on. This allows him the necessary time he needs to unwind.

We also allow a specific amount of time for him to ask whatever questions he may have about the day, in order to reduce anxiety and discourage him from getting out of bed to ask them. He is also given a certain number of songs (because he falls asleep with a CD player playing) while mommy or daddy sit in his room. This calms his nerves and allows him to relax more easily.

Use an alarm clock

One issue we have in our house is getting up in the middle of the night or waking for the day too early. We tried a few things, but a clock works best for us.We use the Okay to Wake alarm. The clock lights up green when it is okay for our son to get out of bed. This helps him know that, barring an emergency, he shouldn’t get up unless the clock is green.

[“End the ‘I Can’t Sleep’ Cycle of Exhaustion”]

Reduce anxiety

Many kids with ADHD suffer from some level of anxiety, so do your best to reduce their stress leading up to bedtime. As I’ve said, we allow for question time before bed as well as an allotted time for a parent to stay in the room before leaving the child to his racing thoughts. These things should be individualized for your child. Some kids respond well to having their back rubbed or special pressure put on their arms or legs. Others may calm more easily when they are not touched.

Know your child and know which anxieties he may face daily, so you can better anticipate this step.

Consider natural remedies

We have tried everything from food elimination diets to chiropractic care, but the following are the most tried-and-true methods in our home.

Gravity / heavy blanket: It has helped a lot!

Essential oils: Lavender is highly recommended for calming and easing stress for sleep.

[Simple Sleep Strategies for Kids with ADHD]