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Child Development

Does ADHD Cause Sleeping Problems In Your Child? What To Know

November 30, 2022
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    Lack of sleep harms mental and physical health, but many people don't get enough. For those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), sleep problems are even more prevalent than they are in the general population. Why is this the case, and what can you do to help your child with ADHD get the rest they need? 

    In this article, we'll talk about the connection between ADHD and sleep problems, why children with ADHD often have trouble sleeping, and how lack of sleep affects children. Then, we'll discuss solutions and how the Joon app can help.

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    Why Does ADHD Impact Sleep for Children?

    A large body of research confirms that children and adults with ADHD are prone to various sleep problems. Sleep problems kids with ADHD face include trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, tantrums prompted by bedtime resistance, racing thoughts or excessive bursts of energy before bed that contribute to sleep difficulties, and a higher prevalence of common sleep disorders like insomnia. 

    But why? Some sleep problems seen in those with ADHD relate to ADHD symptoms, but symptoms of ADHD aren't the only reason why a child with ADHD might have trouble sleeping. With that said, here's what we know about ADHD and sleep problems in children.

    Reason Why Your Child May Have Trouble Sleeping

    Sleep problems in children with ADHD can have a range of different causes. Understanding why your child struggles with sleep can be beneficial because it allows you to address the root cause. Common causes of sleep problems in children with ADHD include but aren't necessarily limited to the following. 

    Sleep disorders and delayed circadian rhythm

    Sleep disorders like restless legs syndrome (RLS), delayed sleep phase disorder, obstructive sleep apnea, and insomnia are linked to ADHD Children with ADHD are significantly more likely to have a sleep disorder than their peers without ADHD.

    Anxiety symptoms and nightmares

    If your child experiences anxiety symptoms before bed, it might be more challenging for them to fall asleep. These symptoms could relate to separation anxiety caused by sleeping in a room other than their caregiver, or they may be due to something else. For example, if your child experiences frequent nightmares, they might be afraid to fall asleep.

    ADHD symptoms

    ADHD symptoms can have a direct impact on sleep. For example, hyperactivity symptoms in children with ADHD might lead to aforementioned bursts of energy that make it more challenging to fall asleep, even if it leads to difficulty waking in the morning.

    How Does Lack of Sleep Affect Children?

    Some parents are tempted to throw in the towel regarding their child's sleep struggles, which makes sense. Battles with ADHD and sleep are tough. Mitigating tantrums or confronting kids who wake up in the middle of the night to get dressed, color on the walls, use electronics, play with toys, and so on, can all take a toll on parents of kids with ADHD. That said, you shouldn't give up. Sleep is critical for well-being, and repairing sleep-related problems might even help with behavior, mood, and related concerns. Let's go over the possible effects of not getting enough sleep, and then we'll tell you what you can do to help your child get the rest they need. 

    An uptick in ADHD symptoms 

    Research shows that children with ADHD and a sleep disorder often report a higher severity of ADHD symptoms, such as difficulties with working memory and focus, as well as a lower quality of life. Even in studies of kids with ADHD that do not specify whether or not they have a sleep disorder, we see a connection between lack of sleep and an increase in ADHD symptoms. Worsened ADHD symptoms can be frustrating for kids and their parents alike and can lead to a vicious cycle with it in mind that symptoms of ADHD themselves can cause sleep disturbance.

    Increased difficulty with education and learning

    Even for those without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, lack of sleep is known to impair memory, focus, and overall cognitive function, all of which are necessary for success in education and learning. The effects may be even more noticeable for kids with ADHD who already struggle in these areas and often face trouble sleeping.

    Mood and mental health concerns

    Sleep deprivation is linked to a higher risk of depression, anxiety, poor emotional control, social issues, mood swings, and behavioral problems in children and adolescents. Children with ADHD are already more likely to experience mental health disorders and related concerns, and sleep problems can further heighten the issue. The battle with sleep you face with your child might also affect parental mental health, causing stress, frustration, and other problems.

    Physical health problems 

    The physical effects of lack of sleep or poor sleep quality can be intense, and they're far beyond what the eye can see. Effects of lack of sleep on physical health include an increased risk of cardiovascular problems, sports injuries and other accidents, daytime sleepiness, growth issues, negatively impacted brain development, and difficulty with judgment or a higher likelihood of risky behavior.

    How To Help Your Child With ADHD Fall Asleep

    As a parent, what can you do to combat ADHD sleep problems? Parents of kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can find what works to find peace of mind and help their children fall and stay asleep at night. Here are some research-backed tips you can use to help your child with ADHD fall asleep.

    Keep a consistent bedtime routine

    Sleep experts recommend that children and adults alike maintain a consistent bedtime routine to support healthy sleep patterns. First and foremost, make sure that you put your child to bed at the same time each night and wake them up at the same time every morning. Plan your child’s schedule with their bedtime and before-bed routine in mind. In addition to timing, stick to a consistent set of activities that prepare your child to go to bed, such as bathing, eating a bedtime snack, putting electronics away a few hours before bed, and reading to your child before it's time for them to fall asleep.

    Recommended reading: How to Naturally Help your Child with ADHD Sleep Better

    Remove distractions from the bedroom

    Environment matters when it comes to overcoming sleep problems. Distractions, such as electronic devices, markers, and certain toys, may impede a child's ability to sleep. Remove distractions from the bedroom, and to the extent that you can, make it a priority for your child to keep their room as tidy as possible. Additionally, try not to start any potentially stimulating activities before bed, as it could lead to bedtime resistance or make it more difficult for kids to wind down.

    Note: Joon is an app designed exclusively for kids with ADHD aged 6-12 and their parents. In the game, children get rewards for completing real-life tasks set by a parent or guardian that allow them to care for a virtual pet of their choice, which aids motivation and independence. Even better, Joon is backed by child psychologists, occupational therapists, and teachers. Click here to download Joon and get started.

    Consider sensory factors

    Many know that sleeping in a cool, dark room with clean sheets supports healthy sleep. However, children with ADHD sometimes face sensory issues, and if that is the case, it might be particularly vital to consider additional sensory-related factors that could make falling asleep harder, as well as what could help. For example, your child with ADHD may benefit from sleeping with a weighted blanket, or they may find falling asleep easier with a white noise machine.

    Teach your child to use relaxation techniques

    Relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises can help with sleep problems in children in some cases. Meditation, counting, progressive muscle relaxation, drinking caffeine-free tea, reading a book, and other means of self-soothing can all be worthwhile. If your child's difficulty falling asleep is linked to anxiety, it might be particularly helpful to help your child build a toolkit of relaxation techniques they can use before bed. 

    Take ADHD medication at the right time

    Though it may seem strange, some research shows that taking stimulant medications can help people with ADHD sleep. ADHD medication helps regulate ADHD symptoms, so it makes sense that taking it during the day would set children with ADHD up for success at night, too. Despite the potential to aid sleep, stimulant medications can also keep children with ADHD up in some instances - especially if they take it too late in the day. Make sure that your child takes their ADHD medication as prescribed, and if they do find it hard to fall asleep, ask their doctor if a change in their medication routine might be valuable in helping them fall asleep more easily.

    Make time for physical activity during the day

    Physical activity is important for all kids. However, it is known that physical activity can help reduce the severity of ADHD symptoms like trouble focusing and improve sleep. Though it may not always stop bouts of nighttime hyperactivity entirely, prioritizing daytime movement can be helpful and promotes well-being regardless. 

    Click here to learn about some of the best activities for kids with ADHD.

    Address sleep disorders

    As discussed, certain sleep disorders frequently pair with ADHD. If your child with ADHD has or might have both ADHD and a sleep disorder like restless legs syndrome or insomnia, treating the sleep disorder can make a world of difference. A doctor might suggest melatonin treatment or other safe melatonin alternatives /medications for pediatric patients with sleep disorders or pervasive and consistent sleep disturbances.

    Melatonin is often used to to help ADHD children who have trouble falling asleep due to factors that disrupt their natural sleep-wake cycle.

    Other tools, including behavioral sleep interventions in the form of therapy, can be helpful for some kids. All children with ADHD are different, so speak with their primary care doctor for guidance that suits their specific needs.


    An extensive body of research shows that children with ADHD are more likely to face a range of sleep problems. Poor sleep or sleep disturbances can lead to a range of negative consequences, but the upside is that there are ways for parents to help a child with ADHD improve sleep patterns. Use the tips in this article to promote positive sleep habits in your child, and if sleep difficulties continue, talk with your child's pediatrician for individualized guidance. At times, interventions like a change in a child's stimulant medication regime or the addition of sleep medicine can help. Consider using a sleep app or a to-do application like Joon designed for kids with ADHD to encourage better sleep habits and help kids thrive in day-to-day life. 

    How Joon Can Help Encourage Better Sleep Habits

    Joon helps children with ADHD complete daily tasks and hold routines. How does it work? Parents input or select tasks for their child in the app, and the child must complete those tasks in order to get the rewards necessary to care for their virtual pet in the game. 

    You can use the Joon app to help your child stick to a consistent bedtime routine by adding quests that'll help your child prepare for a better night's sleep. For example, you might add quests that encourage sleep hygiene habits, daytime tasks that set them up for success at night, and other activities that aid relief from sleep disturbances. Claim your 7-day free trial here.

    Examples of quests you may input to help your child with sleep include:

    • Bathing. 
    • Brushing teeth and other oral hygiene practices.
    • Eating a bedtime snack.
    • Taking medication before bed, if applicable.
    • Getting clothes and school supplies ready for the next day.
    • Putting pajamas on.

    Of course, these can vary based on factors like your child's age and the support level needed. We know that no two children are alike, so you have full control over customizing your child's task list. 90% of children with ADHD who use Joon complete all of the quests their parents add to the app, and many parents say that using Joon has improved their child-parent relationship. Currently, there are over 3.6k ratings for Joon in the app store, with an average of 4.7 out of 5 stars. 

    Joon is fun for kids and aids executive function, motivation, and self-esteem. Whether you want to use it to help your child's sleep or for another reason, download Joon today.


    Sarah Schulze MSN, APRN, CPNP

    Sarah is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a specialty certification in pediatric mental health. She works at a clinic in Champaign Illinois, providing care to children and adolescents with mental health disorders. She obtained her bachelor's in nursing from Indiana State University in 2011 and completed her master's in nursing from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014. She is passionate about helping children create a solid foundation on which they can grow into healthy adults.


    Sarah Schulze MSN, APRN, CPNP

    Sarah is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a specialty certification in pediatric mental health. She works at a clinic in Champaign Illinois, providing care to children and adolescents with mental health disorders. She obtained her bachelor's in nursing from Indiana State University in 2011 and completed her master's in nursing from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014. She is passionate about helping children create a solid foundation on which they can grow into healthy adults.