ADHD + Sleep

Ahhhh sleep. ZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

A good night’s sleep can make you feel refreshed, positive and ready to face the day.

Conversely, a bad night’s sleep can make you feel sluggish, exhausted and at a disadvantage before you even start.

Many of our children with ADHD have sleep difficulties and so this adds to their challenges of what the day ahead will bring.

WHY DOES YOUR CHILD FIND IT DIFFICULT TO SLEEP?

MENTAL RESTLESSNESS

There is so much buzzing around a busy brain. Ideas, things to do, plans, worries. Replaying conversations and scenarios. Your child has an imaginative, perhaps over catastrophising, way of seeing the world. And it is in the quiet of the night these thoughts may surface.

CIRCADIAN RHYTHM

Our bodies naturally produce melatonin to allow our bodies to fall into a circadian rhythm of sleep. Your child with ADHD may not be producing enough melatonin and so their internal body clock is off. The brain is not allowing the body to shut down.

SENSORY EXPERIENCES

Your child may have a sharp awareness of temperature, sound, light, movement. This can be extremely distracting and may prevent your child falling asleep or may wake them up.

HOW TO HELP

WORRIES

Way before bedtime, create opportunities to talk. Sideways talking works well, so whilst you are driving or walking. It could be whilst you are playing or having dinner.

Listen and maybe not even offer a solution. Sometimes, voicing a worry is enough. Take the lead from your child. Don’t rush in if that’s not what they want. Take all concerns seriously and try to encourage your child to work out a solution.

During these uncertain times, your child may be hearing snippets of information and forming a disastrous picture in their mind. Try and keep your own fears and worries away from your child, listen to their concerns and then present them with the facts. Find a trusted source for your information, such as BBC Newsround

ROUTINE

It is vital that there is a routine in place. Of course this can be flexible. During lockdown, the routine may have gone out the window, but now as much as possible let your child know the expectations and order of things.

The routine should be written out using words, pictures, on a chart, whiteboard or calendar. Whatever works for your family.

A routine may be timed or flexible but it is a guide what will happen before bedtime.

An example may look like this:

PHONES

Phones and screens must be shut off one hour before bed.

We know the blue light interferes with the circadian rhythm. Your child’s brain needs to be alerted that it is bedtime. So get into the habit of the whole household charging their devices away from the bedrooms. It is too tempting to have the phone or tablet next to the bed.

SENSORY ENVIRONMENT

Look at the bedroom. Is it a cool temperature. Does your child prefer total darkness or soft fairy lights? Have you tried a fan, white noise app, audio book or quiet classical music?

Check for irritating noises that may distract like a ticking clock. By the way, if you are leaving a device in the bedroom, use an old device that has no other apps or internet. Far too much of a temptation.

Maybe try some light massage or aromatherapy oils on a pillow.

Check the pyjamas and sheets that they are comfortable and don’t have annoying labels or creases. Your child may like a weighted blanket, but please check out NHS guidance.

CALM + SAFE

The bedroom shouldn’t be used as a place to go for a punishment (you know what I think of punishments anyway!). It also shouldn’t be associated with anything negative like homework.

Take out distractions such as toys that will be too tempting when their brain won’t shut off. It should feel comfortable and safe

AND WHAT ABOUT YOU…?

You may have sleep difficulties too. So my advice is to try calming activities before sleep, a note pad by the bed to jot down your thoughts and ideas, a timed app to listen to music (on an old phone not connected to internet). An opportunity to relax before bedtime to chill and wind down.

I know this is not always possible, but plan your child’s routine so that you get some time to yourself. Remember, your needs matter too. You must be energised or you will not have the strength to help your child.

I hope that all helps.

Night night ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

WOW THAT IS SUCH A LOT TO THINK ABOUT…

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