Figuring out how to get my ADHD child to sleep

Lexie has always had a problem falling asleep. I am jealous of those parents who report that their children are in bed and asleep by 7 p.m. Heck, I am even jealous of the ones who get them asleep by 8 p.m.or even 9 p.m.

Lexie, on the other hand, is usually up until 10 p.m. or later even though her bedtime is 9 p.m. My husband originally dismissed it as her taking after him. He has always had trouble falling asleep. But now we know he is right. Her sleep problem is related to her ADHD (which my husband was recently diagnosed with too so it is something she inherited from him.) The problem is that she can’t stop her racing mind long enough to fall asleep.

Actually, the diagnosis of ADHD for both Lexie and my husband explained a lot. And while medication helps both of them in the daytime to focus and be productive, that medicine has run out by bedtime.

Originally, we thought her medication might be keeping her awake, and even her doctor suggested giving it to earlier to make sure it has worn off by bedtime. But even the best extended release medicine is not going to last the 14 to 16 hours of a typical waking day, and I can typically see when her medication is worn off. She becomes hungrier and just a little wild. Since the meds have worn off, she has no way to calm down to go to sleep. (Once asleep, she is out so no worries about that at least.)

While doing some research online, I found several medical sites that said many adult ADHD patients take an additional dose of their medication so that they can quiet their mind enough to sleep. Of course, that sounds odd as ADHD medication is a stimulant which you would think would have the opposite effect and keep them awake rather than going to sleep.

A good night’s sleep is vital to your child’s mood and brain function. Not getting enough sleep can worsen the symptoms of ADHD. With the recommendation of 9 to 11 hours of sleep at night for a nine-year-old,  I definitely want Lexie to get more sleep.

But rather than dose Lexie with more medication, we have decided to try some of the other suggestions for getting her to sleep.

Here are some suggestions gathered from the internet:

  • Use a white-noise machine, ear plugs, or play soothing music to distract from any other night time sounds
  • Cut down screen time before bed (in other words, no TV, computer or iPads for the 30 minutes or an hour before bed)
  • Ensure she gets one hour of exercise a day
  • Sticking to a schedule is very important for someone with ADHD so establish a clear bedtime routine
  • Make the hour before bed calm, low lights
  • If light sensitive, use blackout curtains, turn bed away from door or use a sleep mask
  • Avoid large meals or snacks before bed
  • Try aroma therapy with lavender, chamomile, sandalwood or vanilla.
  • Use a weighted blanket
  • Practice relaxation techniques – focus on breathing or visualize yourself in a calm place
  • Taking melatonin (available OTC) or other prescription medication for sleep

Now, I will admit when I first saw this list of suggestions I didn’t feel confident that they are going to do anything. But I was tired of the nightly battle. We decided to try cutting the before-bed screen time last week. We had them go to their rooms 20 minutes before bedtime and not use any electronics.

OMG! It worked! They were asleep before 10! The next night was the same. Eureka! We have found the cure! Well, it didn’t work on two nights but we were not consistent with the timing of getting them into bed. Lexie still gets up a few times in her procrastinating manner but we have seen a drastic change in how quickly she falls asleep when we stopped the screen time and had them read or draw instead.

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