ADHD Sleep Issues: What To Know and How To Help

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Does your child toss and turn at night? Do you catch them awake late at night, long after lights-out time? Staying up and playing probably isn’t a move of defiance. It might be the result of ADHD sleep issues. Sleep issues are common amongst people with ADHD, and children are no exception. But what are you supposed to do when your child has to be well-rested when they get up early in the morning? First things first – as always, speak to your doctor. Once you’ve ruled out medical reasons, try some things at home. Read on to learn how you can help with ADHD sleep problems at home.

ADHD Sleep Issues
Difficulty falling asleep Challenges turning the brain “off” at night Stimulation from activities before bed Prolonged time to fall asleep
Restless sleep Frequent waking up during the night Disrupted REM sleep
Difficulty waking up feeling refreshed Sleeping through alarms Feeling unrested despite waking up

Why Are Sleep Issues Common in Children With ADHD?

With all of this in mind, why do these sleep problems happen in the first place? What is it that causes trouble sleeping and overall low sleep quality? There are several theories. The first has to do with your child’s circadian rhythm (or internal clock). In studies involving adults with ADHD staying awake at night, it became clear that a delayed circadian rhythm was causing some people to be “evening people” or “night owls.” You may notice the same habits in your child. They can be up late without getting sleepy, but that means that waking up for school is almost impossible. 

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It’s also likely that the child’s mind is racing from thought to thought as they try to go to sleep. With no external stimulation to focus on, they’re left experiencing both physical and mental restlessness all night long. Fatigue can exacerbate ADHD symptoms, so it’s important to get your child’s sleep schedule back on track to the best of your ability. 

Three Ways You Can Help Prevent ADHD Sleep Issues at Home

While fixing ADHD sleep issues entirely is going to be challenging, there are a few steps that you can take as a parent to try to minimize the problem. While you should be working together with a doctor to manage your child’s ADHD, you can do these things at home.

Here are a few tips:

1. Establish a Good Bedtime Routine

A good bedtime routine is crucial for adults and children with ADHD alike. It can help the child adjust their circadian rhythm and calm down their mind so they’re able to drift off more easily. Make sure that the routine is easy for your child to follow. Remember, ADHD staying awake at night can cause executive dysfunction. This makes even the smallest tasks seem overwhelming. The routine starts when screen time stops (about an hour before bed at least). From this point, your child is winding down for the night. 

ADHD sleep issues. a kid in bed is sleeping. staying awake at night adhd
Read more: Does ADHD Affect Sleep?

Is there a calming activity that they like to do before they get ready for bed? Put it into the schedule for the bedtime routine. Make sure that your child brushes their teeth, gets dressed for bed, and gets under the covers at the exact same time every night. This routine will help the child switch their brain into “bedtime” mode more easily. 

2. Create Consistency 

To manage your child’s ADHD staying awake at night and sleep issues, it’s crucial to maintain consistency. It may not solve the problem immediately, but a consistent routine will eventually take effect and become a natural part of their day. Remember, you’re trying to adjust their entire inner clock, which can take time.

It’s important to note that adjusting your child’s bedtime routine won’t be an instant fix. You’ll need to give it some time. To achieve the best results, you should maintain a consistent schedule, even on weekends when your child doesn’t have to wake up for school. This can change later once their sleep problems have improved, but for now, it’s essential.

3. Live a Healthy Lifestyle

Help your child make healthy lifestyle choices to help them fall asleep and stay asleep. Make sure that your child is eating a nutritionally-balanced diet. A lack of proper nutrients may impact hormonal pathways that influence sleep. Avoid sugar or any amount of caffeine at night. Even the small amount of caffeine in a cup of hot chocolate can cause trouble sleeping, especially for small children. 

ADHD sleep issues this image shows a child sleeping on her dad's arms staying awake at night adhd
Read more: Kids Sleep Disorder Test

It’s also helpful to make sure that your child is getting enough exercise. Give them time to get outside and play or encourage them to join a team sport at school. This should help them get rid of excess energy so it’s easier for them to drift off at night.

What To Do if Your Child Keeps Having Sleep Problems

Consistency is key when it comes to managing your child’s sleep issues. By staying committed to your efforts, you’re likely to see positive changes in your child’s sleep patterns. However, if you find that your child is having a tough time sticking to their routine or that it doesn’t seem to be working, you might need to take additional steps.

For instance, you could try eliminating screen time altogether. Instead of allowing an hour before bedtime, start moving the “no screen time” window earlier until you begin to see results. Another option is to speak with your child’s doctor or therapist about their sleep problems and let them know about the steps you’ve been taking to help. The doctor may suggest a new medication or recommend a different approach to help your child calm down and get a good night’s sleep.

Try Goally For Your Child With ADHD

Goally is an excellent option for many families that have a child with ADHD. Use game play as a points-based motivator for your kiddo with ADHD, help them learn emotional regulation skills, and watch them grow! It’s simple to set up and has an expert-informed design.

Goally is the best skill building tablet for kids to learn life skills like brushing teeth, getting ready for bed, morning routines, social skills, and more. The text reads "Goally: The skill Building Kid's Tablet"

Does Your Child With ADHD Struggle With Sleep?

If your child with ADHD has been struggling staying awake at night, it’s time to start taking steps to help them. Remember, it may seem like your child is being defiant when they’re staying up at night, but it’s just a result of common ADHD sleep issues. Are you looking for a way to help your child stick to a routine and build their independence? Get Goally! Goally is a fun and easy way for neurodivergent children to develop and maintain routines all by themselves.

FAQs About ADHD Sleep Issues

What are common sleep problems for children with ADHD?
Children with ADHD often struggle with falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up in the morning.

How does ADHD affect sleep?
ADHD can affect sleep by making it difficult for children to wind down and relax, causing racing thoughts or hyperactivity at bedtime, and leading to restless sleep.

Can medication help with ADHD sleep issues?
Yes, medication can help with ADHD sleep issues by improving focus and reducing hyperactivity during the day, which can make it easier for children to fall asleep at night.

Why is it important to address ADHD sleep issues?
Addressing ADHD sleep issues is important because poor sleep can exacerbate ADHD symptoms, impact overall health and wellbeing, and affect academic performance.

Can diet and exercise help with ADHD sleep issues?
Yes, a healthy diet and regular exercise can help with ADHD sleep issues by promoting overall physical and mental health, reducing hyperactivity and restlessness, and improving sleep quality.

This post was originally published on 02/08/2022. It was updated on 09/20/2023.

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