Falling asleep at the end of the day can seem like an illusive idea for our children with ADHD. As a baby and toddler, Grasshopper never really had any difficulties falling asleep. However, the last couple of years going to sleep was becoming increasingly difficult for him. The problem became much worse after deciding to use medication to treat his ADHD.
Overall, using medication to treat his ADHD has had amazingly positive results, but that’s another topic for another post. The problem we were encountering was that the medication wears off at the end of the day. This means at bedtime, his brain starts to feel like it’s playing ping pong again (this is how he describes how his ADHD feels). All of this means that when he should be winding down for bedtime, the opposite is happening and his brain is getting wound up again.
Being up until midnight (or later) was becoming a consistent problem. He was frustrated and in tears often, struggling to understand why going to sleep was such a problem for him.
We went through a period of trial and error to find what would help him sleep at night. We took suggestions from his doctor, occupational therapist, and of course lots of internet research. Here are our results.
Sleep Tricks That Didn’t Work
Here’s the tricky thing about parenting, no two children are a like. Even within our own families our children are completely different. That means what worked for someone else didn’t necessarily work for Grasshopper. It also means that what works for us might not work for you. For that reason, I’ll share what didn’t work for us. Hopefully you can find some success with these options.
- Essential Oils – I love them, but they didn’t do anything for helping Grasshopper calm down and sleep.
- Journaling – His occupational therapist suggested he have a journal by his bed, when he couldn’t sleep he could write down what he was thinking about. The idea was get it on paper and out of his head.
- Night light
- Completely Dark
- Complete Silence
- Relaxing bath (before bedtime)
Sleep Tricks That Did Work
We tried all of the following things individually. By themselves, they didn’t help (even the melatonin). Through a lot of trial and error we came up with a combination that works. The trick that seems to have made a difference was a bedtime routine that involves all the different sensory aspects. Brace yourselves, this list goes against all of the wind down activities you think of in a bedtime routine.
- Melatonin – We give him this about 20-30 min before bedtime. I plan to try removing this from our regimen after sleep habits are better established. But the upside is that it’s a natural supplement to help the body fall asleep naturally.
- Exercise videos – I use exercise videos on you tube designed for kids. He’s doing a good cardio workout for about 15-20 minutes right before going to bed. Push ups are also involved in the work out to provide some “heavy” sensory input.
- Drink of water – I’m not sure this really helps him sleep but it means he can’t use the “I’m thirsty” excuse to get out of bed
- Coloring books – I’m not talking about character type coloring books that might get a child excited, but my “adult” coloring book has been really calming for him. We let him color in bed for about 15 minutes before he has to turn the lights off.
- Classical Music – Played quietly
- Weighted Blanket – This really helps his body relax and calm down.
Alas, the picture in our minds of cuddling up and reading bedtime stories to put our kids to sleep is more of a fairy tale. Like everything else, we need to be able to make adaptations and problem solve until we come up with a method that works for our kids with ADHD. I hope you’re able to find some suggestions here to help!