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Better Sleep for Children with ADHD

weighted blanket for ADHD

 Do you ask yourself these on a daily basis?

Why won’t my ADHD child sleep?  How can I calm my ADHD child at night? Or How can bedtime just easier for my ADHD child?

I get it, you just want to make the transition to bed not a battle for your child and you. You want them to have restful sleep that may very likely lessen their ADHD symptoms during the day.

Getting a kid with ADHD to go to sleep can be extremely challenging. Their mind and body may still be racing when it’s supposed to be settling down for the night.

 But, there are things you can do to have a really great effect on your kids ability to wind down and relax at bedtime. Here are the best tips I’ve found to really help ADHD kids get to sleep and stay asleep.

The Best Bedtime Tips for ADHD Kids:

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( as much as possible!).

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.

Other things you might include in your bedtime routine: 

  • A little stretching or a yoga pose
  • Mediation or Deep breathing
  • Drinking warm, herbal tea, with calming herbs
  • Turn off screens an hour or two before bedtime

Turn off screens at least an hour before bed

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!

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.

Using a weighted blanket can have a huge effect on a kid’s ability to calm themselves for sleep. 

We have used a weighted blanket for about three years 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!! My favorite brand, SensaCalm, now has an economy line  of weighted blankets along with an amazing clearance section.

Go to bed earlier

This may seem a bit backwards, I know.  But kids often have a magic hour when falling asleep is sooo much easier.  If you miss it and wait too long, they are actually too tired to fall asleep.

Thats when the behaviors start – the whining ,the racing around – they are too tired to self soothe and need you.

Sound familiar?

Do an experiment and try putting your kid to bed 30 minutes or an hour earlier than usual. It might take a week or so to adjust, but this just may be the ticket!! 

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.

So, obviously, count backwards from when your kids have to get up and aim to get as much sleep as possible.

Take Magnesium 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.

We love this drink that has magnesium and B6! It’s pictured above and tastes as yummy as it looks!

Related: Natural Remedies for ADHD

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 red nightlights in my kids’ bedrooms and the bathroom. 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 also have these light bulbs in lights around the house.  When the sun goes down, these are the primary lights we have on. The lack of blue light signals the bodies own natural circadian rhythm that it’s time to start winding down. 

Try simple deep breathing exercises

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.  In breaths quicken the heart rate, while out breaths slow it. This is a great technique to learn for a quick relaxer anytime.

We also love Sitting Still Like a Frog, a great book with mindfulness exercises. The book is great for the 10 and under set.  We’ve had it for ages and still do some of the exercises.

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.

Encourage relaxation

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.

Just pick one or two to try.

We have instituted these over a few years as my kids have gotten older and seemingly a bit harder to get to bed.  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.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you purchase an item through the link, I may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only recommend items that I have purchased and LOVE myself. Thanks!

Need More Help With ADHD?

We love these ADHD breakfast ideas to fuel growing brains.

Our weighted blanket is the best investment I’ve made to date.

Do you know about treating ADHD with reflex integration? Read about it HERE.

getting kids with adhd to sleep

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  1. Rosemary Loftis says:

    I will use your ideas- my son and I both have ADHD. my son is nine my daughter is three and I am a single full-time working mom in the tech industry.

    Here’s what I sent my partner this morning as I think through getting back into the school routine :

    With school and work I will set up and post a week night sleep time routine again- you guys are welcomed me to join. Here’s what I am thinking
    6-7:00 dinner and clean up
    7:00 Brush teeth bath if needed
    7:15 – 7:45 free time if all is done (no electronics after 7:45)
    Transition time – get in bed choose book
    7:55 (sleep vitamins) in bed with book – reading material – thinking growth mindset 2 nights and what ever Kai is reading the other nights
    20 minutes of reading each night
    8:30 mom in bed or falls asleep with kids

    I will set Alexa/phone up with multiple alarms as this really works for us
    I will research how to set Alexa app to play relaxing music at different points so Stella can hear the Que and understand it.
    Like at 745 Alexa plays a brush teeth song. When it’s bedtime she plays rock-a-bye baby.

    1. Rosemary, Great ideas!! It sounds like you have figured out what will work for your family. LOVE IT. Thanks for the inspiration.

    2. Such great suggestions!! Laid out in a very manageable way. Thank you:) Fuzzymomma from Guitarmomma

  2. As the kids get older and have more screen time you could download an app on your phones and computers called flux or something similar. It is an app that controls the color/light emissions from the screen on your custom or suggested sleep schedule. Just look up apps related to limiting blue light. I have used “flux” but there are others out there as well. It does help really well. In fact my eyes and brain no longer feel the harshness or headache effects of using the technology. However I had to consciously limit my use of my phone before bed when i had it downloaded on my phone instead of waiting for my eyes to get tired with the blue light the old way.

    1. Thanks Sonya! Yes, screen time for school is inevitable and totally out of my control. I will check this out. Do you ever wear the blue light blocking glasses?

      1. I use an app like this too, called twilight. I’ve never even heard of those glasses! Very cool!

        Personally, the apps are great and my partner even keeps theirs on all day to help with headaches. The apps are also on computers, and would probably be a good alternative for if wearing glasses is something that is annoying or doesn’t feel good for your son.

        1. Thanks for the tip! We are able to really control when my kids get off their computers – and do so before dinner – most nights..but as they get older, I’m sure I’ll have to lots of things in place.

  3. Hi, Beth! I haven’t forgotten about your guest posts! I was wondering if you use a sensory swing? I saw this:sensoryscout.com/sensory-swing and wondered if you had success with it? https://offers.sensoryscout.com/sensory-swing-step-1-b?fbclid=IwAR2796QdbNo0mwDe2h20bWAEj5vjvDSDSs0WC8wfsU5JA3tNHC0RrT4Ck8I&utm_campaign=Funnel+-+Tiered+Boosting&utm_content=Viral+Vid%2F+10x+Thumb+%2F+Testimonial+Copy&utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=facebook&utm_term=4%25+DV+LLA+-+TN+-+%2425+%2820181229%29
    Blessings, Jacqueline over at Deeprootsathome.com

    1. Hi Jacqueline! We have not used one at home, but we do have a hammock that we hang indoors in the winter that my kids love. I have seen these and they look great!

  4. Hi, Beth! I am working on your guest post! Could you send me a photo of your choice? I am so sorry it has been so, so long to get to your wonderful post! Thank you. You can post it to FB msg and I can grab it there! 😀
    Blessings! J
    PS I will be using your ‘about’ info if that is okay! Let me know!

    1. Sure! Will do!! Thanks again for featuring me! Excited to see the response…I’ve been getting so many great emails from moms! I think it’s so important to share what’s working for us in the hopes that it can help others, too.

  5. Hello! We’re looking into weighted blankets for our daughters (ages 8 & 10), but are unsure of the weights and how long the blankets will work for them as they grow. If a child is 55 lbs and we order a 7 lb blanket, will the blanket provide enough pressure as she grows closer to 70-80 lbs? What has your experience been with how long the blankets provide enough pressure for your kids?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Cindy! Funny you should ask, I was just thinking I need to order another one for my son, who is now nearing 100 pounds. I originally ordered one for someone 10 pounds more than him, thinking it would last a bit longer and it really worked out…it’s been great for two years and he still says it’s fine! I love SensaCalm because they have a great return policy and a wonderful page about “how to buy”. I will have a new post with an interview of SensaCalm’s owner thats coming out on Monday with a discount code if you can wait a few days to purchase. : )

  6. Hi, Beth! I left you a private msg on FB. I am finishing your first post and wondering something. Thanks, friend!

  7. Thank you for your amazing posts. My daughter has just turned six, and isn’t diagnosed yet but we are incredibly sure that she has adhd. My husband does too so we are family very aware of it. Bedtimes are so hard here, she fights sleep for hours often not dropping off until 9.30/10pm and sometimes with a lot of defiant behaviour along the way, or upset.

    I will definitely be using some of your tips here as there’s a few we haven’t yet – a weighted blanket and also introducing some relaxation. I’m thinking a foot rub after bath and deep breathing, before she snuggles down (I say optimistically) for her story.

    Wish us luck….


    1. HI Helen! Thanks for your comment – it’s so great that you are being proactive. Bedtime is still something we preserve for my nearly 14 and 12 year olds – it makes a world of difference for them. We love a lemon foot bath, too, when the weather gets cooler. Its so simple, yet so grounding at bedtime. (I have a post on it, if you’re interested) Keep in touch and let me know how it’s going.

  8. I bought my son a cheap weighted blanket from target, but it doesn’t seem to be doing this trick. I think I need a bigger one, that looks and feels more like a comforter, so I am looking into the SensaCalm blankets. Do you have a comforter size one for your son? I was wondering if that would work better than a smaller one. Does your son ever complain about it making him hot?

    Also.. we do magnesium and melatonin for sleep. No screen time before bed, read books and relax, have all red lights for nightlights. I am wanting to do away with the melatonin, but he just can’t seem to sleep when I try to cut back on it. I’ve tried CBD oil and that helps some, but not enough for the cost of it. Is there anything else you recommend for sleep?

    PS.. I’ve also made ADHD research my life and love your blog! I’m so happy you started it and recommend it to all new ADHD moms when they ask me questions. I have a notebook I compile on my notes and research in, and you found the perfect way to organize a lot of things I’ve slowly learned. This is the jackpot of resources for ADHA parents! Thank you for your hard work and using it to help others!

    1. HI Molly!! Thanks for your kind words!! I am glad this information is helpful. I, too, am a crazy information finding mama and I thought, why not share? In terms of a blanket…my son started with the smaller (34″ by 50″) weighted blanket but now has a large 38″ by 72″. I bought them both from the clearance section on SensaCalms site. We keep our house cold during the night, but in the dead of summer my oldest does complain about the heat. My oldest tried a compression sheet but did not like it. What works for my kids is different. One takes Kidscalm magnesium gummies at night and that does the trick…the other takes magmind at night and has a weighted blanket and really, really benefits from heavy exercise during the day. As a household, we stop all screens an hour or two before bed….especially violent games or star wars shows. We might watch a light comedy as a family, but still turn that off an hour before bed. We try to turn off overhead lights an hour or so before bed and just have red lights on for reading in rooms. Also….we try to stop eating two hours before bed. This is harder for my oldest who seems to be a vacuum cleaner at the moment. My husband will also sit in the boy’s room and do a smiling mind app with them. I have also done tapping on them in the past…they don’t ask for it so much lately. Hope this helps!!!

  9. Going to sleep is not a problem with my ADHD grandson. His issue is waking up too early. How can we manage that? He is up most mornings by 5:00 a.m. That means their entire house is up too. He doesn’t need to be up till 7:15
    My daughter has tried putting him to bed a little later. That doesn’t help. Normal bedtime is 8:00

    1. Hi Grace, Sorry you are going thru this…something I tried with my kids that worked was getting them to be a bit earlier…sounds counter-intuitive, but it can help kids sleep longer. Also, does he take a magnesium supplement? Use a weighted blanket? Both of those can help, too. Let me know how it goes.

  10. Adding electrolytes at dinner time also helped us. So does reading before bed. She reads and then I read to her.

    1. Can I ask you what brand of electrolytes do you use? Have you tried LMNT ? Yes, reading aloud provided me with the BEST connection and memories of bedtime!

  11. Elizabeth says:

    How much magnesium is safe fir kids
    I have 12,11,8,and 6 and is it best give it night for bed time or should it also be given during the day ?

    1. Hi Elizabeth! We follow the dosage on the bottle…but my kids take 4 gummies about an hour before bedtime.

  12. I’m so glad I found this on Pinterest!! We have been having problems with my 4-year-old granddaughter for about 2 years now! My daughter and her husband along with their 4-year-old and 5 month old live with us. We have been going crazy wondering what is going on with her oldest. She finally got referred to a behavioral specialist! She said she may be ADHD and is on the spectrum for Autism. She doesn’t sleep!! Bedtime is a nightmare! She throws a fit every night. My daughter has to sit in there until she falls asleep. That can take anywhere to an hour to 2 hours! If she doesn’t she screams and refuses to lay down and go to sleep and yells please over and over. Once she falls asleep she still wakes up once or twice a night. Then it’s a whole thing to get her back in bed and back to sleep. Then she wakes up at 6:30 every morning!! Begging us to play with her first thing! She has always had a bedtime routine. Before the age of 2 it was so easy! No problems! Now we absolutely dread bedtime. Now I’m reading everything I can about all this. I will definitely be passing all this on to my daughter! Thank you so much!!

    1. Sounds really tough!! Will she tolerate a hot water foot bath? Check out my post on Lemont Foot Baths….it works magic – but really just lowers the body temp. Have you tried a weighted blanket? I have a class about sleep, too, that might be helpful. Please let me know how you are doing.