Are you getting enough sleep? If you’re like one in three Americans you probably aren’t, and if you are someone affected by ADHD, you may have an even harder time getting enough sleep. According to a study in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, about 35 percent of Americans are getting less than seven hours of sleep a night.
Children with ADHD are two to three times more likely to have sleep problems when compared to kids without the disorder. Frequently, children with ADHD will resist going to bed, even when they are very tired. When they do settle in for bed, they often have trouble falling asleep.
In both children and adults, stimulant medication for ADHD can interfere with falling asleep, as can caffeine. Co-occurring sleep disorders, including Restless Leg Syndrome, sleep disordered breathing (which can include snoring or sleep apnea) and a delayed internal wake-sleep cycle can also cause problems in going to sleep or staying asleep through the night.
Lack of sleep can affect the way you think, function and behave. It can also aggravate ADHD symptoms, including hyperactivity in children. What can you do to improve your sleep or help your child to sleep better? A few common suggestions include:
Create an evening routine that helps you close your day and transition for sleep.
When you or your child has ADHD, routines are important. Having a nighttime routine, such as a bath, a book and quiet time, helps some children relax. Adults can also read or work on a hobby, dim lights at night and enjoy quiet activities before bed. By having a set routine, the brain recognizes the patterns that signal bedtime.
Turn off electronics.
While many people affected by ADHD feel that TV or electronic device use helps them to settle down in the evening, it turns out that the light from televisions and electronic devices can interfere with the brain’s sleep triggers. Turning them off an hour before bedtime helps the brain to begin the sleep process.
Make the bedroom a pleasant place.
It doesn’t need to be spotless, but a cozy place for sleeping helps to make bedtime inviting. Keep the room slightly cool and use light-blocking window shades. Cover clocks or other bedroom electronics that have LED lights that could interfere with sleep. Turn off devices that can buzz or beep. Pick out sheets and comforters that make you feel happy. Keep work, including homework, out of the bedroom.
Plan enough time for sleep.
Time management is a challenge for many people affected by ADHD. You may need to schedule your nighttime routine and bedtime in your day planner. If you use an online calendar, have it send emails or text reminders to you to start the evening routine. Some people may need to rework their daily routines to set bedtimes that will allow them at least seven to eight hours of sleep. This will often include choosing to not do something extra so you can finish the day earlier or spend a little bit more time in bed in the morning.
If you’ve tried these and other suggestions and still can’t get enough sleep or your child continues to be overtired, talk with your doctor. The doctor may have additional medical options or may do physical exams for other health conditions interfering with sleep.
You can read more on ADHD’s affect on sleep on our webpage.