Sleep Solutions for Children with ADHD

Five Sleep Solutions for Children with ADHD

Jeremy Sharp, PhD ADHD, Parenting Leave a Comment

Children with ADHD often struggle with sleep. This is no surprise to the many exhausted parents. You’ve tried everything. You sang songs, read books, and sat outside the bedroom door as your child remained awake for hours. As a last resort, many parents use sleep medications meant for adults on their children. Sadly, those medications can actually disturb a child’s sleep. Instead of struggling to fall asleep at 8 p.m., your kiddo could be wide awake at 3 a.m. Fortunately, the strongest supports to a child’s regular and healthy sleep are pretty straightforward. Here are five sleep solutions for children with ADHD and anxiety disorders:

Commit to a Pattern (No Matter What!)

Children do best when they go to bed at the same time, the say way, every single night. Having leniency on weekends or vacation days, while seeming like a small tweak, just makes the weekdays all the more difficult. So think of what would actually work for your child, and stick to the pattern. The adjustment at the beginning will be a struggle (you will have to fight for it), but the result will be peace in the house and a well rested child.

Dark and Distraction Free Bedrooms

A singular tiny sliver of light coming from the window or the light from a bedside clock can keep your little one up. Anything with a screen or a flashing light (no matter how small it may seem) is just unhelpful for children with ADHD. Consider blackout curtains and facing the bed away from the light of doors. Also, while light can be an issue, so can noise (or the lack of noise). Consider investing in a white noise machine or a small fan to block out all the little distracting noises one can hear at night. We recommend the Marpac Dohm-DS All Natural Sound Machine (affiliate link).

Deep Breathing

Try sitting in bed with your child and show him how to relax simply by breathing. Close your eyes, breathe in deeply for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 5 seconds, and exhale slowly for 6 seconds. This slows the heart rate, focuses your child’s mind on one thing (breathing), and switches his body into sleep mode. Here’s a simple image to remember: “Smell the rose, now blow out the candle.”

Tangible Items and Rewards

Take a clock and color in the hours that your child needs to stay in bed. Any kind of visual clues give instant clarification of your expectations. Also, praise and rewards strengthen the pattern far more effectively than punishment. Make a morning of uninterrupted sleep a celebration. Tell her how proud you are, and ask if she feels so much better.

Take the Pressure Off

Remember, your child is tired, so his coping skills are down. You know how it’s hard for you to sleep when you’re stressed about work? It can be like that for your child every night. But If you take the pressure off of him and off of you, you can alleviate the intensity of bedtime. Try saying, “You don’t have to go to sleep right away, but I’d like you to try being still and closing your eyes.”  Also, it helps if there is a safe outlet for your child to work out his thoughts before bed. Having some one-on-one time before bed can be a great outlet for your child to share the things that cause her anxiety. Share a simple calming phrase your child can repeat when those anxious thoughts pop up. It can be as simple as: “I’m okay, I’m loved, everything will be okay” or it can be a prayer, a mantra, or a quote from her favorite book. Consider giving your child a journal to write in just before bed.

Rest easy, parents – most of the time, sleep difficulties are a developmental phase. It will get better!

Our clinicians specialize in assessment and treatment of ADHD at our offices in Fort Collins. Feel free to give us a call to learn how our services could be helpful or to schedule an appointment. You can reach us at (970) 889-8204 or

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