Go To Bed, Stay In Bed
“I just want to tell you one more thing before I go to bed!” “Can I have a banana? I’m hungry!” “I need to cuddle the dog one more time.” “I barely got any screen time!” Settling down to bed, staying there, and surrendering to sleep can be challenging for our kids with ADHD.
ADHD is Neurologically Wired to Make Sleep Difficult
It’s important for us to understand that individuals with ADHD are neurologically wired to make sleep difficult. Problems with getting to sleep, waking up during the night, getting out of bed in the morning despite a full night’s sleep, and staying awake during day are common to those with ADHD. Good sleep is a predictive factor for success, and disruption with sleep can exacerbate the challenges for a child or adult with ADHD, making them feel more irritable, more hyperactive, more inattentive, and more distractible.
What can we do?
Address the Boredom
Lets face it - sleep can be pretty boring, especially for our ADHD folks. Children and adults with ADHD are uncomfortable with being bored and need stimulation. For someone with ADHD, lying in a dark room with no stimulation can be difficult, because their mind can start wandering to something exciting, something they’re worried about or something they’d much rather do. Harvard Medical School Dr. Roberto Olivardio recommends that individuals with ADHD address sleep boredom with something more comfortable and engaging, but not too engaging, so they can calm their brains down and surrender to sleep.
When it comes to our kids with ADHD and sleep challenges, it’s important for parents to allow for opportunities to experiment with trial and error because there’s no one size fits all.
• Experiment with balancing the level of stimulation before bedtime and collect data with your child on what works.
• Activities before bed that are engaging, but not too engaging can be: coloring books, familiar podcasts with soothing voices, knitting or needle work, reading that’s not over-stimulating, exercise, soft (or even loud!) music, or singing.
Parents need to be aware that what works for them or one child may not work for another child. Parents can help their child better understand themselves by letting their child know they're willing to experiment with them and why. When we have conversations with our kids about what they feel is working for them, we show we are open to their ideas. Even if we “know” the outcome may not be optimal, we show we are on their side and are helping them learn what's best for themselves.
• Work with your child at their level so they develop their own awareness around sleep. Have discussions around what makes them feel comfortable in their sleep environment.
Ask them: What feels comfortable to fall asleep? Blankets? Clothing? Lights? Clock? Fan?
• When kids are fighting sleep, bring your child into the conversation, especially the next day, and ask, “What happened? How do you feel? What might you want to try next time?”
Experiment with a longer awake time or wind-down time. Avoid battles knowing it won’t be perfect.
Meet Them Where They Are
Teens often fear they are missing out on late night social media, while parents face the challenge of getting their teens to leave this “after-party” that goes into the wee hours of the morning. We can acknowledge to our teens that it’s tough to feel that they are missing out, while helping them prioritize what’s important to them. Meet them at their level to help them understand what’s getting in their way and the value sleep can have for them. When they don’t sleep well, our kids with ADHD may need a few more experiences with the lousy things their bodies do to them than we may expect, before they may be open to making changes.
• Using a neutral, nonjudgemental tone, talk in terms of observational language to your child. For example: “I see you are in a better mood when you get better sleep, you eat better and you have more energy to hang with your friends, get outside, etc.”
• In terms they can relate to, point out the effects of what happens to your teen biologically when he or she doesn’t sleep well. For example: “When we don’t sleep, the hormones in our body are affected; we crave fat and sugar, which lowers metabolism and causes us to gain weight. Lack of sleep can also influence sexual dysfunction.”
ADHD is neurologically wired to make sleep difficult and disruption with good sleep can exacerbate the challenges for a child or adult with ADHD.
• Address the boredom
• Get Buy-in
• Meet your kids where they are
Experiment with one or all of these and observe any changes in your child's sleep.
Let me know how the conversation goes for you!
All my best,
PS. Need more support with sleep for your child or yourself?
Contact me for an ADHD Strategy Assessment Session and we can talk about some strategies you can put into place now!
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