Is It Common for Kids With ADHD to Have Trouble Sleeping?


It’s not always easy to get your kids to go to sleep at a reasonable hour, let alone get the recommended amount of sleep for their age group. Not only do they often want to stay up to watch a show or play “just one more game,” but they may also have a disorder that interferes with their ability to fall and stay asleep.

ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that affects more than 10% of children in the U.S. It can impact many aspects of a child’s everyday life, from difficulty meeting assignment deadlines to forgetting social plans. But is it common for kids with ADHD to have trouble sleeping? The short answer is yes. The long answer requires details about how ADHD affects a child’s sleep.

In this blog post, we’ll dive into the specifics of how ADHD impacts a child’s sleep. We’ll also share tips that may help them achieve healthy sleep on a regular basis. 

Why kids with ADHD often have trouble sleeping

Up to 70% of children with ADHD have sleep issues, meaning they have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or achieving healthy sleep on a regular basis. They also have a heightened risk of developing sleep disorders, though it’s common for sleep disorders to go undiagnosed due to their similarity to ADHD symptoms.

Even though research hasn’t pinned down one exact reason, here are a few possible explanations for why ADHD can lead to trouble sleeping for kids:

  • Delayed circadian rhythm disturbances — One of the most common beliefs is that ADHD can interfere with the body’s circadian rhythm, which is a person’s sleep-wake cycle that repeats every 24 hours. ADHD causes a delayed release of melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate this cycle.
  • Medication — It’s possible that sleep disturbances in children with ADHD come as part of a side effect of their medication. The most common types of medication for ADHD are stimulants, which boost alertness by increasing the level of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which can make the mind and body feel awake.
  • Anxiety — Many children with ADHD also experience anxiety as a symptom. Anxiety causes negative thoughts due to excessive stress and fear, even without a reason. It can cause racing thoughts and difficulty “turning the brain off.” Anxiety can make it difficult for a person to relax both their body and mind when it’s time to go to sleep. 


Here are a few sleep disturbances connected to ADHD:

  • Insomnia — They may have difficulty falling and staying asleep due to racing thoughts and excess energy.
  • Nightmares — Frequent nightmares are common for children with ADHD, which are likely linked to anxiety.
  • Delayed bedtime — They may put off their bedtime because they don’t want to go to sleep, possibly due to fear of the dark or being alone.
  • Restless legs syndrome (RLS) — RLS refers to the urge to move when a person is trying to relax, due to hyperactivity.


Tips to help kids with ADHD fall (and stay) asleep

Sleep plays a vital role in your child’s overall health and wellness. It allows their mind and body to reset for the next day while also helping their mood, immune system, and cognitive performance. Fatigue and sleep deprivation from poor sleep can also worsen existing ADHD symptoms during the day, especially hyperactivity and lack of focus.

If you’re trying to improve the sleep quality of your child with ADHD, here are some strategies worth trying out:

  • Schedule wind-down time — Children can usually doze off within 20 minutes, but ADHD can extend that time frame. To get your child’s body and mind prepared for sleep before they close their eyes, you can try to schedule “wind-down time,” which can include no electronics and dimmed lights while they do a relaxing activity, such as reading.
  • Establish a consistent bedtime — While a routine can be helpful for all ages, it’s not always easy to stick to. Even so, getting your child’s mind and body used to the same bedtime every day, including weekends and holidays, can help regulate their circadian rhythm. A consistent bedtime can make it easier for them to get used to falling asleep on a schedule.
  • Drain their energy during the day — Sleep is often easier after the body is drained because it wants to rest and recover. That’s why it can be helpful to ensure that your child gets at least one hour of exercise each day. Physical activity can exhaust their muscles and reduce their sleep onset period, or the amount of time it takes for them to fall asleep.
  • Amber-lensed glasses Slipping on a pair of glasses with amber lenses can help make a child feel sleepy at the end of the day. Pairing these glasses with wind-down time can make it much easier for the child to transition to getting in bed.


Free resource: Infographic


BBS_LeadMagnetPreview_Template (3)Beyond BookSmart can help your child with ADHD deal with sleep issues

Even though it’s common for children with ADHD to have trouble sleeping, it’s still possible to address and alleviate the issues that poor sleep can have on their success at school, home, and extracurricular activities.

ADHD can cause a lack of focus, organization, and emotional regulation, all of which can be exacerbated by trouble sleeping. Fortunately, these are all Executive Function skills that can be coached and trained for success. Executive Function skills are life management skills that we all need to be effective in planning, initiating, and achieving goals at home, in school, and in the workplace. 

At Beyond BookSmart, we have Executive Function coaching services for students in kindergarten through college. If your child has a learning difference or an emotional challenge, or they’re just struggling to reach their Executive Function potential, Beyond BookSmart services can help.

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an inquiry call.

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