Getting a kid with ADHD to go to sleep can be extremely challenging. Their mind and body may still be racing. One of my kids, in particular can have a real problem going to sleep. He tells me “sleep is boring, Mom!.” For kids with add, the transition times can be difficult and bedtime certainly falls into that category. I have tried many, many tactics over the years to make going to bed and staying in bed easier. Here are 8 ways I have found to really help getting kids with ADHD to sleep.
Keep a consistent routine
There is power in routine. When kids know what to expect, things are much more likely to go smoothly. We keep the same routine – and bed time- even on weekends, even on vacations. I make sure to begin our routine about 45 minutes before lights out, so nothing seems rushed. It’s all hands on deck to help this go smoothly – my husband and I each take on some of the duties. We turn off all unnecessary lights as my kids shower, brush teeth and get in pjs. I love to get in some read aloud time and then each kid gets a bit of time to read in their beds with a small book light.
Get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep is sooooo important. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 9 to 12 hours for children ages 6 to 12. Sleep deprivation in kids has been linked to poor performance in school(less sleep can cause kids to be 1 to 2 grade levels behind), obesity, and a myriad of other health issues. My kids are early risers, no matter when they go to bed. As a result, we go to bed really early, with a lights off by 7:45 rule – even on weekends and vacations. For my kids their optimum amount is at least 10 hours.That said, we do have unavoidable special events that are increasing as my kids get older- boy scout meetings, band concerts, etc. We limit those events as much as possible, with a later night happening no more than once a week.
Try a weighted blanket
Since ADHD is usually not just about hyperactivity, calming the sensory system often has a big payoff. Weighted blankets put pressure on the big muscle groups, releasing serotonin to aid in the overall relaxation of the body. We have used a weighted blanket for about a year now with tremendous results. My son loves it and once underneath it, does not get out of bed!! My son just said last night, “Mom, I used to hate going to bed, but now I see how relaxing it is.” Weighted blankets can be pricey, but considering how important sleep is, they are worth every penny!!
Turn off screens at least an hour before bedtime
All screens emit blue light, which has been shown to disrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythm and it’s ability to produce melatonin. Make sure you turn off all screens a good hour, if not more, before bedtime. With older kids having to do homework on screens, this is becoming increasingly difficult for many families. We have a no screens after dinner rule, which works because my kids have little to no homework on a screen. We may have to tweak this as they get older.
I just bought these blue light blocking glasses which we will try. My kids will be wearing them when the sun goes down to block out the blue light from screens and our fluorescent bulbs. I will let you know how that goes! My husband and I will be wearing them, too!
Take a Magnesium Supplement about an hour before bed
We are big on natural supplements and have worked to find a good regimen. One of the most helpful supplements for relaxing is magnesium. I make sure my son takes it about an hour or so before bed(we had to find the sweet spot with some testing). The magnesium serves to slow him down and help with the transition to bedtime. Rubbing magnesium oil on the bottom of your child’s feet is a wonderful alternative for kids who are not old enough to swallow pills.
If you take other supplements with magnesium in the morning, make sure you do not exceed the maximum daily dosage for your child. Also make sure your child is getting enough B6 to aid in the absorption of magnesium.
Darken the room as much as possible
Like the blue light of a computer screen, even small amounts of compact fluorescent and LED light can upset the body’s circadian rhythm and it’s ability to produce sleep inducing melatonin. We have black out shades and no nightlight in my kids’ bedrooms. My son usually needs the bathroom light on to calm nighttime fears, but as soon as he is asleep, I turn out all lights. We have a tiny amber light in a nearby bathroom to guide nighttime bathroom stops.
Try simple deep breathing
Before I leave my son’s room for the night we do a few rounds of deep breathing. We vary our routine, but lately we breathe in for 3 counts, hold for 3 counts and breathe out in 5. Breathing out for longer than you breathe in seems to do the trick. Modeling the behavior helps him learn the technique so that he is able to do it for himself. Equipping him with as many tools as I can is my goal.
It may be helpful to add some fun relaxing bits to your routine. A few days a week, I’ve been giving my oldest son lemon foot baths to soothe his senses and ground him in his body. He LOVES these and it’s a nice way to do a little doting on him, too.
We have tried the mediation app Smiling Minds with some success–one of my sons does not always join in. As we continue to make it more of a practice, hopefully everyone can benefit.
These ideas for getting kids with adhd to sleep are loosely listed in order of their helpfulness in getting my kids to bed. We have instituted these over a few years as my kids have gotten older and seemingly a bit harder to get to bed. If all of this seems a bit overwhelming pick one or two to try. Helping my kids get enough sleep is one of the best things I can do for their overall health and the well being of our family.
I’d love to hear any ideas that help you get your kids to bed. We can all use some more tools in our toolbox!