Getting a kid with ADHD to sleep at bedtime can be extremely challenging.
Their mind and body may still be racing. One of my kids, in particular can have a real problem going to sleep at bedtime. He tells me “sleep is boring, Mom!.” For kids with ADD, the transition times can be difficult and bedtime certainly falls into that category. I have tried many, many tactics over the years to make going to bed and staying in bed easier. Here are 8 ways I have found to really help getting kids with ADHD to sleep.
[I share this post by Beth Grushkin from FuzzyMama because we both want you and your children to thrive!]
Keep a consistent bedtime routine
There is power in routine. When kids know what to expect, things are much more likely to go smoothly. We keep the same bedtime routine – and bed time- even on weekends, even on vacations. I make sure to begin our routine about 45 minutes before lights out, so nothing seems rushed. It’s all hands on deck to help this go smoothly – my husband and I each take on some of the duties. We turn off all unnecessary lights as my kids shower, brush teeth and get in pjs. I love to get in some read aloud time and then each kid gets a bit of time to read in their beds with a small book light.
Get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep is sooooo important. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 9 to 12 hours for children ages 6 to 12.
Sleep deprivation in kids has been linked to poor performance in school (less sleep can cause kids to be 1 to 2 grade levels behind), obesity, and a myriad of other health issues.
My kids are early risers, no matter when they go to bed. As a result, we go to bed really early, with a lights off by 7:45 rule – even on weekends and vacations. For my kids their optimum amount is at least 10 hours. That said, we do have unavoidable special events that are increasing as my kids get older- boy scout meetings, band concerts, etc. We limit those events as much as possible, with a later night happening no more than once a week.
Try a weighted blanket
Since ADHD is usually not just about hyperactivity, calming the sensory system often has a big payoff. Weighted blankets put pressure on the big muscle groups, releasing serotonin to aid in the overall relaxation of the body. We have used a weighted blanket for about a year now with tremendous results. My son loves it and once underneath it, does not get out of bed!! My son just said last night, “Mom, I used to hate going to bed, but now I see how relaxing it is.” Weighted blankets can be pricey, but considering how important sleep is, they are worth every penny!!
Turn off screens at least an hour before bedtime
All screens emit blue light, which has been shown to disrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythm and it’s ability to produce melatonin. Make sure you turn off all screens a good hour, if not more, before bedtime. With older kids having to do homework on screens, this is becoming increasingly difficult for many families. We have a no screens after dinner rule, which works because my kids have little to no homework on a screen. We may have to tweak this as they get older.
I just bought these blue light blocking glasses which we will try. My kids will be wearing them when the sun goes down to block out the blue light from screens and our fluorescent bulbs. I will let you know how that goes! My husband and I will be wearing them, too!
We are big on natural supplements and have worked to find a good regimen. One of the most helpful supplements for relaxing is magnesium. I make sure my son takes it about an hour or so before bed(we had to find the sweet spot with some testing). The magnesium serves to slow him down and help with the transition to bedtime. Rubbing magnesium oil on the bottom of your child’s feet is a wonderful alternative for kids who are not old enough to swallow pills.
If you take other supplements with magnesium in the morning, make sure you do not exceed the maximum daily dosage for your child. Also make sure your child is getting enough B6 to aid in the absorption of magnesium.
We love this drink that has magnesium and B6! It’s pictured above and tastes as yummy as it looks!
Darken the room as much as possible
Like the blue light of a computer screen, even small amounts of compact fluorescent and LED light can upset the body’s circadian rhythm and it’s ability to produce sleep inducing melatonin. We have black out shades and red nightlights in my kids’ bedrooms. My son usually needs the bathroom light on to calm nighttime fears, but as soon as he is asleep, I turn out all lights.
Try simple deep breathing at bedtime
Before I leave my son’s room for the night we do a few rounds of deep breathing.
We vary our routine, but lately we breathe in for 3 counts, hold for 3 counts and breathe out in 5. Breathing out for longer than you breathe in seems to do the trick. In breaths quicken the heart rate, while out breaths slow it. This is a great technique to learn for a quick relaxer anytime.
Modeling the behavior helps him learn the technique so that he is able to do it for himself. Equipping him with as many tools as I can is my goal.
It may be helpful to add some fun relaxing bits to your bedtime routine. A few days a week, I’ve been giving my oldest son lemon foot baths to soothe his senses and ground him in his body. He LOVES these and it’s a nice way to do a little doting on him, too.
If all of this seems a bit overwhelming pick one or two to try. Helping my kids get enough sleep is one of the best things I can do for their overall health and the well being of our family.
I’d love to hear any ideas that help you get your kids to bed. We can all use some more tools in our toolbox!
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Beth Grushkin is a Montessori teacher and Simplicity Parenting Coach raising two, tween boys with her husband outside Chicago. More comfortable off the beaten path, she started her blog Fuzzymama to chronicle her journey supporting two boys with ADHD. She is passionate about sharing her mostly natural approach to fight the puzzle that is ADHD in the hopes that she can help families find their own solutions for success.
Jacqueline’s note: At our church, we have found sensory swings are great for kids who struggle with ADHD or high energy. It does seem to make a difference!