ADHD and Sleep Routines

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a disorder which is categorised into two parts:

  • Inattention (concentration and focus)
  • Hyperactivity and impulsivity

Whilst most people with ADHD have difficulties in both areas, some only fall into one category. ADHD was first identified in 1846 by Heinrich Hoffman, and the scientific presentation by Sir George Frederic Still in 1902. Initially ADHD was considered a ‘moral control’ disorder’ and later was described as ‘hypokinetic disorder’ in 1932 by Kramer and Pollnow, before later being named ADHD in the 1980s when it was recorded in the DSM-3 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

Whilst children with ADHD may experience a number of different symptoms, which are unique to them. Some, will struggle with sleep routines. When children with ADHD feel tired it can make their symptoms worst. This makes it even harder to fall asleep. They may:

  • Repeatedly get in and out of bed
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Hyperfocus before it is time to sleep

The subsequent lack of sleep contributes to:

  • Reduced alertness
  • Reduced cognitive ability
  • Struggle concentrating
  • Difficulty with mood regulation
  • Forgetting information
  • Feeling irritable, impatient and less efficient

Which therefore impacts the following day, particularly when they have school to navigate.

The areas of the brain that support regulation and sleep are the same areas of the brain that regulate sleep and attention. Therefore, a child with inattention may also struggle with sleep.

To support sleep routines, basic principles that children need include:

  • Daily physical activity
  • Healthy eating habits
  • Daily sunlight
  • Good hydration
  • To do homework early in the day and not in the bedroom

At bedtime, children with ADHD will need to give their bodies some help to sleep, this includes:

  • Keeping the room dark (black out blinds, no blue light from screens)
  • Have a strict evening and bedtime routine
  • Avoid trigger foods in the hours before bed (caffeine, sugar, fizzy drinks)
  • Stop TV, electronics and screen time at least 90 minutes before bed
  • Blackout curtains
  • A sleep mask
  • A weighted blanket
  • Try aromatherapy
  • White noise or meditation tracks
  • Learn breathing routines such as box breathing (4-4-4)
  • Use relaxation techniques and tracks
  • Bath time to relax before bed
  • Keep the wake up time the same every day

Want to learn more? 

If you want to learn more about ADHD you can join our Level 4 training (here) or keep an eye out for our new neurodiversity courses coming soon (here).


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Further help 

For more articles about mental health visit – ARTICLES 

To learn more about child and adolescent mental health visit – COURSES 

For resources to support child and adolescent mental health visit –RESOURCES 

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