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ADHD Child Waking Up Early? Here’s What to Do

I’ve worked with many kids who struggle to sleep soundly through the night, and a common thread is often an ADHD diagnosis. Seeing a child exhausted and frustrated, along with their equally sleep-deprived parents, always tugs at my heartstrings. If your child with ADHD is waking up way too early, it’s time to take action. Sleep is crucial for all kids, but it’s especially vital for children with ADHD, who often need extra support in regulating their energy levels and emotions. In this blog, I’ll explain why ADHD can contribute to sleep issues and provide practical tips to help your child (and you) get a good night’s rest.

First: Why Does a Child with ADHD Wake Up Early?

ADHD child sleep problems are quite common. Up to 70% of children with ADHD struggle to fall asleep at night. There’s no single reason that this happens. Some children may struggle with overactive minds, others may have strong responses to stimulant medications.

Read more: How To Use Visual Schedules at Home for Kids With Autism

While you’d think that this always results in children struggling to wake up in the morning, this isn’t true. Even a child who was up late can wake up with the sun, ready to greet the day, before you’ve even opened your eyes. And hey, listen Mom, your child’s lack of sleep is going to feed into your own lack of sleep… and that can be tough! 

Even if children are up early, that doesn’t mean that they’re ready to be awake. While some children can function on only a few hours of sleep, most will end up needing extra naps during the day or start feeling frustrated and angry. Sleeplessness does have the potential to cause meltdowns.

ADHD Child Waking Up Early: Making Adjustments

Sometimes you just need to make a few changes to your child’s lifestyle to keep them in bed. It’s possible that a slightly later bedtime will help them stay asleep until it’s an acceptable time to wake up. Try to have a good bedtime routine that can keep your child calm. This will make it prevent your ADHD child waking up early. 

Make sure that you do plenty of activities during the day to get rid of your child’s excess energy. When a child is tired out, they’re far more likely to stay asleep until their alarm goes off. You can use a tool like Goally to provide calming sounds and images that can make your child sleepy. This should keep your child asleep (or help them go back to sleep) until it’s time to wake up. 

How to Send Kids With ADHD Back to Bed

If your ADHD child is waking up early, you can try to send them back to bed. This isn’t always an effective option, but for toddlers especially, it’s still possible. After all, they’re too young to be on their own for the morning! Here are a few ways that you can keep your child in bed when they wake up early:

The Light System

When you use Goally’s bedtime tool, your child will know whether or not it’s time to wake up. “If Goally is red, go back to bed!”

Goally device in sleep mode with red screen displaying the time (10:55 PM) and a message that says "Wake Up at 7:00 AM)
Read more: Morning Routine Chart for Toddlers | Free Printable

This is going to take some getting used to for your kiddo. There will be several instances in which you’re going to have to carry your upset child back to bed, and you may have a meltdown or two in store. Consider rewarding your child for staying in bed until it’s time for them to wake up. Using positive reinforcement is a great way to encourage desired behavior… and who doesn’t like a reward for a job well done!

Talking it Out

Seems obvious, right? Sometimes it’s hard to give your kiddo enough credit for their ability to reason with you, especially when you’re tired! But, if your child is old enough, give it a try. Let your child know that they don’t have to go back to sleep until the light turns green, but that they do need to stay in bed (or at least in their room). This may help children who feel frustrated when they’re not tired in the morning, so they don’t understand the point of getting back into bed.

If you want to keep your ADHD child from waking up early, give them some motivation. Ask them how they feel during the day. If they get sleepy, let them know that trying to get more sleep in the morning will help them!

Having a Routine

When you keep a visual reminder of your child’s routine in their bedroom, they’re more likely to remember that they need to stay in bed until it’s time for the morning routine to begin. 

You can use Goally’s tool, but because it should still be in bedtime mode at this time, you can also help your child make a big poster with their schedule on it. Put a clock next to the schedule to make it easier for your child to understand. 

Goally | The Safest Tablet for Kids

A young child demonstrates brushing teeth on the best tablet for kids by Goally, highlighting a kid-friendly interface.

Going Along With It

If your child is resisting sleep or even staying in bed, it might be in the best interest of both of you to go along with it, at least for now. But how do you do that without losing sleep in the morning? For toddlers, we recommend providing a few quiet activities that they can do in their bedroom. Easy books, puzzles, sensory toys, and quiet games are great for this purpose. Your child can have fun and learn while they wait for you to grow up.

For older children, you could have them start their morning routine earlier if they’re capable of taking care of themselves. Children at this age yearn for independence. Let them know that they can eat breakfast and get ready for the day as long as they stay quiet (and safe!) enough that they don’t disturb people who are asleep. 

adhd child waking up early. a dad is getting his kid outside to help with sleep.
Read more: What Are the Best Autism Sensory Toys?

Do You Have an ADHD Child Waking Up Early?

Having an ADHD child waking up early is challenging, but there are ways to handle it so you can get enough rest. Try changing your child’s pre-bedtime routine, use Goally to indicate when your child should wake up, and talk to the child about why they need sleep.

If none of this is effective, make it easier for your child to participate in quiet activities while the rest of the house is sleeping. Don’t try to fight your child’s natural tendencies if they’re still able to function happily on their sleep schedule.

Goally | Apps To Structure Your Kiddo’s Routine

Does your child struggle with transitions or staying on task? Goally’s visual schedule app breaks down large tasks into small, achievable steps. It helps kids complete their tasks independently! 

Goally kids tablet makes bedtime easy with bedtime routines completely controlled by the parent.

Create custom routines with your own videos & pictures for every step. The steps come in small, bite-sized pieces to help your child learn the little fundamentals (like putting the toothpaste on their toothbrush!) to achieve bigger goals. And that’s just the beginning.

You’ve got the tools now to start tackling your child’s early morning wake-ups. Don’t expect overnight miracles – progress will likely be gradual. And remember, every child is unique, so some strategies might work better than others. Be patient with your child and with yourself. With consistency and understanding, you both can look forward to more peaceful early mornings and a well-rested, happier household.

Additional Resources for Parents

Here are a few more reliable resources for further information on ADHD and sleep:

  • CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder): CHADD is a leading organization providing education, advocacy, and support for individuals with ADHD and their families.
  • HelpGuide.org This site offers a wealth of information on mental health conditions. Their article specifically devoted to ADHD and sleep problems is practical and informative.
  • Web MD Web MD is a trusted source for medical information and often features articles on how conditions like ADHD intersect with daily life, including sleep habits.

FAQ’s About ADHD Child Waking Up Early

Why does my child with ADHD wake up so early?
Children with ADHD often have trouble regulating their energy levels and sleep patterns.  Their brains may have a harder time winding down at night and transitioning into sleep mode.

How can I help my ADHD child sleep later?
A consistent bedtime routine, a calming pre-bedtime environment, and limited screen time before bed can all help promote better sleep for children with ADHD.

What are some bedtime routine tips for kids with ADHD?
A good bedtime routine might include a warm bath, quiet reading time, listening to calming music, or a gentle massage.  Visual schedules and timers can also help kids understand and follow the routine.

Should I adjust my child's ADHD medication if they wake up early?
Talk to your child's doctor about their medication.  Adjusting the dosage or timing of ADHD medication might sometimes help with sleep issues.

What if my child with ADHD still wakes up early, even with a good routine?
If good sleep habits don't help, consult your child's doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions and discuss other potential solutions.

This post was originally published on 03/02/2022. It was updated on 02/23/2024.

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