New Issue!

Spring 2017 Issue ADDitude magazine Read the 'ADHD Therapies That Work' issue now!

The New ADDitude Forums Are Live!

Reach our full community by posting to ADDitude's discussion forums here

Parents of ADHD Children

Sleep and the ADD child

My son is 9, we got his (and my) ADD diagnosis when he was 5.  Since he was about 1 year old, we’ve had sleep issues.  To get through them I put him in bed with us.  However, he still, at 9, wants to get in bed with us each night.  When he was smaller, it wasn’t a huge issue, but now, he’s almost as tall as me, steals my pillow, covers, and nearly pushes me off the bed. 

We purchased a camping cot and placed it by our bed, and sometimes he’ll go on it.  But if he can’t fall asleep in his own bed, he refuses to fall asleep on the cot, and we can literally stalemate it until 5 am, when I can’t take it anymore and put him in our bed.  He will actually wake me up to prevent me from sleeping if he’s not asleep (never his father). 

I’m at my wits end with nighttime and sleep.  We give him melatonin before bed.  I’m just tired.  How can we keep/encourage him to leave us be at night?


Wow, I could have written this exact question myself!  Does the melatonin not knock him out?  Im not trying to be funny, but maybe he could use a slightly higher amount.  We give my son 5mg at night and he’s out.  He’s going on 9, 75lbs.  I think the fear of not being able to get to sleep is the biggest obstacle you are facing with him, so maybe once he sees how easy it is (now with the increased melatonin), he will be more apt to be on his own?  Eileen Hope it helps.  I feel for you!

Posted by Eileen1013 on Aug 24, 2014 at 2:27am

Hmm…  He doesn’t always fall asleep quickly with the melatonin but I may ask his pediatrician if we can increase the dosage.  I think you’re right. The fear of not falling asleep is his fear.

Posted by CPLLabgurl on Aug 24, 2014 at 2:30am

If it makes you feel any better, I have 4 kids under 8 in my bed at this very moment…  But seriously, my oldest got to bed just fine all summer until school started and all of a sudden his not being able to sleep started.  I started up with the melatonin again, and just like that, he’s asleep at 8pm everynight, wakes up totally fine.  I really feel safe with it.  When I forget to cut the pill in half, he will sleep so deeply that he wets the bed… oops!  Good luck!  smile

Posted by Eileen1013 on Aug 24, 2014 at 2:33am

Melatonin gets them to sleep but it doesn’t keep them asleep, unfortunately.  It took about an hour to kick in in my 8 year old.  My daughter was on heavy night time, sedating medicines until she was part of an NIH study for ADHD and anxiety.  Now she is on NO night time medicine and goes to sleep between 10 and midnight.  Not a good thing since she can’t be alone in her room.  These ADHD kids don’t need much sleep….at least my daughter doesn’t!!

Posted by TraciL on Aug 24, 2014 at 2:35am

I think our biggest struggle is night waking.  Anyone have this happen?

Posted by CPLLabgurl on Aug 24, 2014 at 2:36am

Just me again. My oldest will wake up with night terrors from being overtired…. is it like that or you mean he just wakes up and cant back to sleep?

Posted by Eileen1013 on Aug 24, 2014 at 2:38am

My 10 year-old was diagnosed at 5 and had no problems going to sleep until recently. He is currently taking 30mg of Ritalin, which I give to him in the morning. Last school year it was a struggle to get him to finish his homework. I tried everything, so this school his doctor prescribed 10mg of Ritalin. The first night he didn’t go to sleep until 2:45am. This week the nurse will administer his meds at 3:00pm. Do I ask him pediatrician if it is okay to give him a sleeping aid?  Just in case he can’t fall asleep. Thanks

Posted by Lesa49 on Aug 24, 2014 at 4:01am

Here it is, 317am and he won’t let me sleep.  He woke up and won’t let me sleep because it scares him for everyone else to sleep when he’s awake.  So he wakes me up each time I fall asleep.  It’s terrible.

Posted by CPLLabgurl on Aug 24, 2014 at 7:19am

It is about 7 AM and my 9-year-old son just came into my room to ask for his Kindle to listen to audiobooks and a snack. Then, he says he is going back to sleep.
    Its been a long hard road getting to this point. He sleepwalks and has nightmares and terrors and has woken me up as many as six times in one night. I think he also gets lonely when he sleeping alone sometimes, but he does it every night. So, its been hard to get him to this point. We still have episodes of extreme sleeplessness, but haven’t had one in awhile.
    First, you should hire a sitter or get a relative to come and stay with your son and you go sleep in a hotel for a few nights just so you can get some sleep. I am serious about this suggestion. You need to get some rest. You can’t deal with this problem if you’re so sleep deprived that you can’t think straight.
  Have you tried giving him something for sleep. My son, who still has sleep issues takes 3mg of Melatonin and 200 mgs of L-theanine (a serotonin precursor) every night to help him sleep. In addition to these over-the-counter remedies, he also takes 2 mgs of Intuniv each night. I have also heard that in extreme cases, some kids take Klonopin to help them sleep. Sounds like this might be an extreme case. You should start by taking your son to see a doctor.
    He also sees a therapist, who helps him understand why certain behaviors he exhibits might be very unreasonable and how he should act instead.
    Here is an idea that just came to me. Have you ever considered getting your son a companion animal, one that will sleep with him. I would love it if my dog would sleep with my son, but he is a dachshund and they are very particular about who they sleep with.
    A lab on the other hand is not so particular. They are also much easier to train. After it has been housebroken, you could train a lab
    If you get one, get a female, preferably one who has had a litter of puppies. Females are much more maternal and less territorial than males. It should be easy to train a lab to sleep with a child so that he doesn’t feel lonely and afraid. You might even apply to a therapy dog program as your son is disabled. And, although the DSM does not recognize sleep problems as part of the ADHD spectrum of symptoms, many experts know it part of the package. So, you can probably even get a specialist to write you a letter explaining why your son needs a therapy dog.
    Above all, don’t let him sleep with you. You need sleep and so does he to be sane and healthy. And, this behavior will have to stop. I hope this information is helpful to you.
Sue H in PC, Ohio

Posted by SueH on Aug 24, 2014 at 11:32am

We struggled with sleep issues for years!  I was so uninformed I would actually be upset and give consequences to my son for intentionally staying awake - as if he could control it! We tried melatonin - but ultimately our pediatrician said that studies had not been done for longterm/higher dosages.  Our prescribing doctor fpr adhd medications started us with Clonidine and a year later added Trazodone.  The clonidine gets him to fall asleep after being in his system for 1 hour.  The trazodone is longer acting and keeps him asleep.  HUGE benefit!  Someone said ADD kids dont need sleep - but I think everyone NEEDS sleep, they are just forced to operate without the benefit of the sleep which is a contributor to issues and impactful to the entire family. 
I would tackle his ability to fall and stay asleep first and deal with “where” he sleeps later.

Posted by momtodom on Aug 24, 2014 at 1:01pm

So much great advice!  If I were you, I would start with small and just talk to the ped and higher the dose of melatonin.  I know how he feels, I would constantly wake my sister up, my mother up when I realized that everyone was sleeping but not me.  He cant control this anxiety, so please talk to your doctor more seriously about it.  You cant go on like this, he’s stuck and hates it, too.  Please let us know this week what happens if you talk to the doc. EVery problem has a solution and not every problem has to be serious!  I think this one is manageable!!  We are here for you!

Posted by Eileen1013 on Aug 24, 2014 at 1:16pm

Just one more thought:  Of course giving him pills doesn’t take away the anxiety so what I did was just tell him that we are going to approach it differently, that you understand how worried he is and that you will sit outside his room, reading until he falls asleep.  For a good 6 mths, I would have to yell out to my son, “I’m still here. I’ll check on you buddy” and that meant I will check on him to make sure he’s sleeping before I go to bed.  It also meant, (wink wink) that I would be awake all night and make sure he stays sleeping.  I don’t remember what I told him, something comforting like I am on it, I have my alarm going off every hour to check on him and when I see that maybe his covers are off or something else that may wake him up, I’ll be sure to cover him..the point is, as crazy as it sounds, it felt like to him that we all understood and that even though his anxiety was irrational, we were there to help.  I swear, its all mental with my son and him knowing that I “got it” and with the increased soothing affect of the melatonin, he felt confident.  He stopped dreading bedtime, and would stay asleep….

Posted by Eileen1013 on Aug 24, 2014 at 1:22pm

First, thank you SOOO much for all the helpful responses.  In my physical life, no one understands our family’s struggle, it’s not an easy battle.

We are blessed because on Tuesday, the 26th, my son has his 9 year old check up.  I will have lots to discuss with her (but hopefully they still code it as a checkup). 

I’ll keep y’all updated with the outcome. 



Posted by CPLLabgurl on Aug 24, 2014 at 2:01pm

Over the years, many ADHD experts have offered valuable advice on sleep issues in articles in ADDitude Magazine. There are some more strategies in these articles not mentioned above that you may find useful:

ADDconnect Moderator, Author & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Aug 25, 2014 at 2:33pm

I faced this with my son when he was a little younger.  What worked for us was talking about what would help him.  He has a night light in his room and we leave his radio on very quietly all night. 
The key was that we discussed what would help him to stay in his bed and to try to sleep.  Maybe this is a discussion you can have through the doctor.  It is sometimes easier for children to tell someone else.

Another thing that has helped my son sleep better, and his moods, is intuniv.  He takes 1mg ever night an hour before bed.  It is a non-stimulant that helps him regulate his mood, eliminates the crash from the stimulants and helps him to sleep.

Good luck!

Posted by cmullen17 on Aug 25, 2014 at 2:49pm

UPDATE:  My son had his check up today.  He’s starting 1 mg of Tenex 1 hour before bed, starting tonight.  I’ll let y’all know how that works for us.

Thanks again for your continued support!

Posted by CPLLabgurl on Aug 26, 2014 at 11:01pm

It’s nearly two hours later and he’s still awake.  I am going to see if melatonin and Tenex can be used together.

Posted by CPLLabgurl on Aug 27, 2014 at 2:51am

Sleep for anyone with ADHD is crucial.  Not getting enough makes the symptoms worse.  One of the “prescriptions” our paediatrician prescribed when my son was first diagnosed was at least 10 hours per night.

I’m lucky, in that my youngest son, the one with ADHD, has always been good at sleeping on his own… which is ironic because unlike my oldest, I kept him beside my bed his whole first year because it was easier than getting up in the night.  Guess that must be personality or something.  With my oldest, I would never let him cry it out, but at a certain point no one was getting sleep, so we just brought him back to bed over and over and over and over until he stayed on his own.  But that was when he was about 1 or 2.  I imagine having an older child used to sleeping with you would mean the habit was even more ingrained, plus they can be a lot more stubborn as they get older.  My only advice, for what it’s worth, would be that letting him in *ever* leaves the door open for the possibility that it can happen again. If you truly want him out, I think the only way to make that happen is to never, ever give in.  Eventually he will realise you won’t budge and will quit trying.  Although he’s older so I bet it’ll take an awful lot longer than the few months it takes to work on a toddler…  :\

I’d probably approach it the same way you need to approach anything with an ADHD kid.  They need something to motivate them to behave the way you want them to.  That means incentives for every stage of success.  And it means breaking the enormous task into chunks that are achievable.  At this point saying “go to sleep on your own and stay there all night” is way too overwhelming for him.  You’ll need to figure out teeny tiny baby steps and then reward with something he really wants (doesn’t have to be money or stuff… it could be an outing, reading with Dad, playing a certain game, etc.)

My ADHD son starting having sleep issues a few years ago (about the same time his ADHD got worse).  He has a really hard time falling asleep and *staying* asleep. We tried a bunch of things and still use all of them…

1. blackout curtains (he leaves them open just a crack)

2. a cooler room with more/heavier blankets

3. enough exercise during the day so he’s actually tired

4. ADHD meds only before a certain time in the morning (because so many of them interfere with sleep)

5. a consistent bedtime (always at the same time, even on weekends or holidays)

6. a bedtime routine - no hyper games or shows or video games 2 hours before bed

7. we read to him in the dark for 1/2 hour before sleep time - he’s 12 now and we still do this.  My husband reads a book from his phone while my son lays in his bed, completely in the dark.

8. SLOW RELEASE MELATONIN - this one is in caps because it’s the thing that makes the biggest difference and the one my son *loves* (he hates his ADHD meds and vitamins, but this he loves).  They can’t be crushed or cut, so they need to know how to swallow pills, but the melatonin is slowly released during the night so they can stay asleep.  My son takes 5mg. 

And the routine and reading in the dark helps make it work. (Our bodies naturally start producing melatonin when we lay down in a dark place.) 

Oh, and our doctor (psychiatrist who specialises in kids with ADHD) said we needed a melatonin vacation as well, so this summer my son went without.  He wasn’t happy, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought since there’s not a whole lot of stress during the summer and he could sleep in if he needed to.

Oh, also, a psychologist told me that giving the melatonin earlier seems to make it work better.  As in an hour or more earlier than the time they need to sleep.

Posted by Rai0414 on Aug 27, 2014 at 10:47pm

Haven’t read it yet, but just spotted this article as well:  “Sleep, Interrupted: The links between ADHD, anxiety, and sleep deprivation in kids.”

Posted by Rai0414 on Aug 27, 2014 at 10:49pm

Update:  we created an evening to do list for our DS and will limit his evening stimuli.  We’re giving the meds 1.5 hours before bed.  We also downloaded an app on his tablet that plays nature sounds that he really likes.  He’s not staying asleep, but when he comes to my room he sleeps on a cot.  So far, so good.

Posted by CPLLabgurl on Aug 31, 2014 at 11:58pm

Baby steps!! Sounds like good news! Keep at it!

Posted by Rai0414 on Sep 01, 2014 at 3:30am

Reply to this thread

You must be logged in to reply. To log in, click here.
Not a member? Join ADDConnect today. It's free and easy!

Not a member yet? Join here »

Search the ADDConnect Group Discussions