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.

Gaining an hour of sleep with DST

This weekend many of us in the United States (and the 70 other countries that have Daylight Saving Time) moved our clocks back an hour to enjoy an extra hour of sleep.

Yes, it was the end of Daylight Saving Time. (Note that is “Saving” and not “Savings” as it is often mispronounced.)

pocket watchWe rejoice when we gain that “extra” hour and whine when it is the spring and we “lose” an hour.

Now for those of you who don’t participate in Daylight Saving Time (or Summer Time for those of you abroad), this is a twice a year practice where we adjust our clocks in an order to conserve energy (though it hasn’t been proven to save energy in today’s world of technology) and increase active daylight hours.

If you want more information on DST, you can watch Katie Couric’s quick 3 minute video explaining Daylight Saving Time.

This whole time changing thing is hard for many adults to adjust to so just imagine what it does for your kids. While it is nice to think that you could have an “extra” hour of sleep, most young kids don’t go for that. They went to bed at their normal time (let’s say 9 p.m.) and woke up at their normal time (7 a.m.) except now it is an hour earlier (6 a.m.). They don’t understand why mom and dad still want to sleep longer.

Then in the evening, those same kids are wondering why they are tired when the clock clearly indicates they have an hour before bedtime.

In the spring, it is often the opposite problem.  I will have to wake the kids up at 7 a.m. but their bodies think it is just 6 a.m. And later in the day, they will protest going to bed because the clock may show it is bedtime but their bodies are still revving to go.

Of the two time changes, the one that seems harder to adjust to is the one in the Spring – or maybe that is just me.

Now I know there are those parents who try to slowly adjust their kids’ wake/bedtimes leading up to the change but that has never worked for us especially now that the kids can tell time. For that matter, we also have given up trying to slowly changing their wake times from summer (where they slept in) to school year wake times.  Yes, it makes for a couple hard days but they adjust.

Many people dislike DST. They don’t see the use of it. Maybe you have seen this saying on Facebook or elsewhere.

When told the reason for daylight saving time, the Old Indian said, “Only the Government would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket, sew it to the bottom, and have a longer blanket.”

But DST was never about giving you more sunshine. The sun shine the same amount of time regardless of what your clock says. But it is a matter of when it is light.

In October, I walked my kids to school in the dark. (School starts at 7:35 and sunrise was about 7:45.) But this week, it will be light when we walk to school as sunrise is at 6:50. And of the two, I would rather be in the light when walking them to school.

Zzzzz….getting the kids to sleep each night

“Mommy, can you read me another story?” my daughter will ask.


It isn’t so much that she wants another story. She is stalling so she doesn’t have to go to bed. If it isn’t a story, it is one more glass of water or a trip to the bathroom or a lullaby. And if I say no to her, she will try my husband (the softie).

Bedtimes around our house have never been an easy thing. As a baby, Jase never wanted to go to sleep unless one of us was nearby – preferably touching him. I know – it was a bad habit to start, but we were new parents. Finally, we ended up using cry-it-out to break him of the habit. Actually, I should say my husband did it because I couldn’t stand to hear him crying. I left the house at bedtime every night for a week.

But Jase did get better. Yes, there was that period of time when he was three when he didn’t want to sleep in his big boy bed. He wanted to sleep on the floor. And again, because it was easier, we let him. We even bought him a sleeping bag. I finally got him to sleep back in his bed by offering to let him redecorate his room. We moved the location of his bed to by the window and added some new animal sheets and an animal comforter. It worked. Five years later and he still sleeps in his bed.

Actually, now that he is eight, Jase is relatively easy to put to bed. He can tell time, so he knows when he needs to turn off the light. But every once in a while he will declare he is scared of something. I don’t think it is so much he is scared but is stalling. I don’t give into it, but my husband does. He will spend some time talking and reassuring him.

The real procrastinator is our daughter Lexie. After lights out, she will get up several times for different things. As it gets later and later, I get more upset with her – and sometimes my husband since he gives into her too often.

I think she is stalling. My husband thinks that she just can’t fall asleep. He suffers from some insomnia and has since childhood. He fears she is like him, and that it isn’t that she doesn’t want to go to sleep, but she can’t.

Either way, I feel she needs more sleep – especially since attending kindergarten full time is more draining. She gets up every morning at 6:30. Right now, we are lucky to get her asleep by 9:30 (lights out is at 9). That is 9 hours of sleep. Experts recommend five year olds get between 10 to 12 hours of sleep. She doesn’t nap so those hours need to come at night. (Actually both kids gave up naps before they were two years old.)

For 8 year olds, they recommend 10 to 11 hours though WebMD notes that most are only averaging 9 hours. Another website said school-aged kids should get 9 to 11 hours.

So right now, their bedtime routine starts with story time at 8 p.m. This is followed by my husband making up a story for them. This sometimes seems to wake them up a little more than I would like. They then go to their rooms and watch something on their iTouches. I know the experts say to stay away from “screen time” before bed but my husband doesn’t seem to believe them. (Hmmm…his “insomnia” might come from all his computer time before bed.)

I have suggested several times that we change their bedtime routine to see if it helps Lexie fall asleep faster. But since my husband is the one putting her to bed and is reluctant to change it, unless I take over bedtime, I guess we will be staying with this routine. All I can say is that I do believe a bedtime routine is necessary and will continue to try to get Lexie to go to sleep as early as I can.