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ADHD and children's sleep problems

Children with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) can be hyperactive which can make it difficult to get to sleep. Bedtime can also be chaotic and stressful for parents.

Children with ADHD may repeatedly get up after going to bed leading to interrupted and irregular sleep patterns.

Children need 9-10 hours of sleep a night. Managing night-time problems is important for daytime as sleep problems can make ADHD symptoms worse.

Importance of routine

It can help to follow a bedtime routine. This means going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning.

It may help to avoid giving a child a big meal to close to bedtime and avoiding food and drink your experience shows trigger ADHD symptoms, including those containing caffeine.

Talking to your doctor about the timing of any ADHD medication may make a difference, as a dose may be wearing off during the evening.

If ADHD is treated with medication such as methylphenidate (Ritalin), sleep problems may be a side effect of the medication. Seek advice from your doctor.

Bedtime routines may be helped by calming things down towards bedtime and avoiding stimulation from computer games or TV too close to bedtime.

The child's bedroom should be dark, quiet and a comfortable temperature.

Doing some exercise during the day and not too close to bedtime can help a child sleep better at night. This could be walking, skipping or playing a team game.

If tips like these don’t help, seek specialist help. Although children are not given sleeping tablets, an expert will be able to make other suggestions.

Other sleep disorders

It may also help to rule out or treat any sleep problems that are separate from those caused by the ADHD itself.

Some sleep disorders appear to be more common in children with ADHD.

These include:

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on June 12, 2017

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