Tips for falling a sleep for children and adults with a diagnosis of ADHD
Of course, we all find it difficult to fall asleep at times. However, research suggests that initiating sleep is a much more common and intense difficulty for people who have an ADHD diagnosis. An estimated 25–50% of people with ADHD experience sleep problems, ranging from insomnia or nightmares to secondary sleep conditions.
There are multiple ways to support your child, your own sleep or suggestions you can make to your partner. Below you can find 8:
1. Difficulties initiating sleep can be a side effect of stimulant medication. Speak to the prescribing doctor about the sleep difficulties.
2. Some neurodivergent children love weighted blankets. Online you can find many different types as well as instructions to make your own.
3. Some studies suggest that the sleep-wake cycle of people with a diagnosis of ADHD is shifted backwards by up to several hours. It might not be possible to allow the person to go to bed later and to sleep in longer but this piece of information can help you understand why your loved one with a diagnosis of ADHD may struggle to fall asleep at a neurotypical time.
4. Adjust the lightning. Melatonin, the hormone that controls our sleep-wake cycle, is regulated by light exposure. It is best to sleep in absolute darkness. Install blinds to cover windows, and cover up any other electrical light sources that may be present in the bedroom. If it is difficult to wake up in the morning, make sure that there is as much natural light as possible!
5. Related to this: Blue light emissions of screens. You can install a blue light filter on most devices which reduces the effects of the blue light which would hinder our sleep initiation.
6. Exercise: Exercise regulates the feeling of energy. Studies have consistently shown that people who exercise during the day find it easier to fall asleep at night. However, make sure that there is not intense exercise 60–90 minutes before bed time. A relaxing yoga session however might help you to fall asleep.
7. Meditation / relaxation / mindfulness / guided imagery with your child together can help them to down-regulate themselves before going to sleep and it also offers a positive experience for you and your child. Meditation and relaxation is a transferable skill that can be practiced before going to bed.
8. In complete silence thoughts tend to start racing. Therefore, listening to either some ambient sounds, sleep stories or familiar audiobooks can help children, young people and adults to fall asleep.
I hope this has been helpful.
Please feel free to contact me should you have any further questions or feedback.
Lukas Dressler (he/him)
Integrative Psychotherapist (MBACP)
for Children and Young People
Wajszilber, D., Santiseban, J. A., & Gruber, R. (2018). Sleep disorders in patients with ADHD: impact and management challenges. Nature and science of sleep, 10, 453–480.