Why do kids with ADHD struggle to sleep?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects 4-5% of the population. It is synonymous with symptoms such as distractibility, inattention, hyperactivity and aggressive behavior. It appears to affect more boys than girls, with many ‘outgrowing’ these symptoms by adulthood. Having a child who battles to sleep in the house can mean that an entire family finds themselves suffering from sleep deprivation.

Many children with ADHD battle to sleep for these reasons:

1. Biologically, the same part of the brain that aids attention, also aids sleep. Children with ADHD will battle to attend during the day and sleep at night because of this.

2. 50% of children with ADHD have sleep disordered breathing. Not only do they sleep fewer hours, but they also have poor sleep quality.

3. Many children use stimulant medications (such as Ritalin or Concerta) to help alleviate their ADHD symptoms. However, a side effect of these drugs can be difficulty falling and staying asleep. Finding the correct dosage and the best time to take the drugs can help to reduce sleep dysfunction, but as children grow and gain weight, a new ‘normal’ will need to be found.

4. It takes children with ADHD longer to fall asleep than other children even if they are tired. Add to this that they are frequently impatient, irritable and impulsive and it makes them less likely to be able to lie still in bed and resist the urge to play or talk so that they can fall asleep.

5. Sleep medications that help many sleepless adults do nothing or may have the opposite effect on a child who has a developing brain.

What we do know helps children with ADHD to sleep is regular exercise, a sleep routine, good sleep hygiene and surgical removal of tonsils and/or adenoids.

Visit The Sleep Foundation for more information and helpful tips about this.