It’s no secret that children already have a lot of energy, but for children with ADHD, symptoms can become so overwhelming that it frustrates friends and family, creating a shame spiral that can feel impossible to escape.
Roughly, six million children between the ages of 3 and 17 have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And while prevalent in the United States, the neuro-developmental disorder is misunderstood. In particular, when children with ADHD don’t get a good night’s rest, it can dramatically impact how their symptoms manifest and their mental health.
We caught up with doctors in Northern Virginia to get their sleep tips for children with ADHD so kids can get the best rest they possibly can.
Creating a Sleepy Environment
The first step to getting better sleep with ADHD is being intentional with your sleep environment. Crucial to creating that environment, according to Dr. James Baugh with the Virginia Pediatric Group, is to make sure that your child’s bed is used exclusively for sleep — no working or gaming in bed.
Keeping your child’s room as free from clutter as possible will help create an environment conducive to sleep. Dimming overhead lights, playing soothing sounds, setting a comfortable temperature, and reducing blue light intake will help as well.
Winding Down and Getting Cozy
Children with ADHD flourish with consistent routine, and sleep is no different. That’s why it’s important to have a ritual that the whole family performs before bed every night. Dr. Michael Martin with Einstein Pediatrics in Vienna suggests activities, such as meditation, reading, or listening to relaxing music.
“The advent of the cellphone has been a huge detriment to all kids sleep, particularly those with ADHD,” he says. He recommends families have a “central location outside of the bedroom where all family members’ devices go at a set time.”
Additionally, set a consistent bedtime and wake-up time every day. Creating a consistent routine helps children with ADHD transition effectively into sleep and might even help the rest of the family get great sleep as well.
Physical Activity and Diet
Regular physical exercise is paramount for getting better sleep for kids with ADHD, says Dr. Bassam Atiyeh with Northern Virginia Pediatric Associates in Falls Church. Often, children with ADHD are told that they are too hyper or lack self-control, but getting consistent exercise can mitigate many of those symptoms.
Eating a healthy diet also plays a major role in getting good sleep. Children should avoid heavy meals before bed, though if hungry, a light snack such as yogurt won’t hurt, says Atiyeh. Avoiding sugary and caffeinated drinks is important, especially in the afternoon. While stimulants tend to calm down children with ADHD, food and drink with sugar and caffeine will have the opposite effect, making sleep far more difficult.
Talk About It
Because ADHD manifests many different ways, every family’s journey to better sleep will look different. Be sure to celebrate little victories and always remember that consistency is key.
And if all else fails, Martin suggests talking with the family physician: “We have a lot of experience working with families on these issues, and we likely know a specialist who might help.”
Feature image by stock.adobe.com
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