ADHD Kids and Natural Sleep

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I’ve just been asked about how natural sleep can help kids with ADHD.  Before we start, I’m no ADHD expert, so these thoughts are based on the principles of natural sleep and my observations of my 3 boys (no, not ADHD boys).  Please filter my suggestions through your own experiences and judgement, and maybe even check with those who know ADHD better than I.

Hyperactivity and Routine

When I think about ADHD, I think about hyperactivity and over-stimulation.  Perhaps I can offer a condensed, amplified or focused version of the natural sleep principles contained in various articles already on this site.  Specifically, I think we can learn from the tips offered for shift workers, the eating & sleepign tips, and some of the generic natural sleep tips. 

I’m going to think about this topic as if it were a behavioural process taking us from daytime through evening and into bed time.  Yes, a good-old bedtime routine.

 

Daytime

ADHD parents already know this, but get your child to exercise during the day.  When you exercise you produce adenosine, a chemical that suppresses adrenaline and initiates chemical changes necessary for sleep. Playing games & sport, running around in the park, kicking a ball, riding a scooter or bike. 

Really expend some energy out there.  It’s going to help make them make the association between daytime and physical activity (and therefore night time and sleep).  Use physical activity as a marker that steps them from sleep time to activity time and back to the next sleep time.  I’ve also found that when my kids exercise hard, their brains tell them to sleep more / deeper.

Keep hydrated. Drink plenty of water during the day, so last minute night-time top drinks of water don’t interrupt your pre-sleep routine.

You could consider Day Drops (from the Sleep Drops range). People who use Day Drops do so as a natural way to help manage peak times of stress, and take them around snack times. 

Diet

Make sure that Dinner time is 2-3 hours before bedtime.  The body needs time to go through digestion mode, before it winds down for sleep.  Obviously rich food, spicy foods, sugars and caffeine are ones to watch out for, but remember that proteins take longer for the body to process.  Rather than change away from a good diet, think about the time needed to digest before bedtime. 

I want to talk Bananas now.  They’re basically a sleeping pill in a skin; rich in potassium (for deep sleep) and tryptophan (great for inducing sleep. If you’re faced with a hungry child, there are some snack solutions here http://www.naturalsleepshop.com/content/eat-yourself-sleep

Pre Bed Time

Develop a consistent pre-sleep routine that you and your child can use each night ahead of bedtime. For example, dinner, followed by a gentle walk (to give your bodies time to digest), then back home to pack for school the next day.  My advice to workers (and families) is to avoid blue light for an hour or two before sleep time.  Blue light comes from TV, computer and game screens, and causes the brain to interpret the light as daytime, thereby triggering a ‘wake-up’ response.  So TV and games away ahead of bed time.

After that, a warm shower or bath, and change into pyjamas.  Possibly a warm drink before bedtime – but try to avoid milk (http://www.bachflower.com/study-on-milk-and-adhd) . This would be a good time to introduce some homeopathic remedies to the routine – Sleep Drops for Kids.  Possibly a rescue remedy.   You could try some natural tart cherry juice earlier in the evening,(or a remedy with an extract) since it’s rich in natural melatonin which will help you fall asleep naturally. 

Now it’s time to read a book.  Offer a gentle foot rub or back rub – something that is just connected with sleep time – while your child quietly thinks about their breathing. We’re establishing a behavioural pattern associated with sleep.

I suggested to Shift workers that they try some affirmations to train their brain to sleep during the day (e.g. “I will fall asleep during the day and sleep well, only waking up at X time”).  Maybe you can adapt this for night time with your child. Brains are very powerful organs and can have a major impact on sleep patterns.

Tailor a routine to whatever works for you.

Reduce distractions

Smooth that path to sleep time.  Remove distractions that can trigger a switch to an ‘active’ thought path.  Is your child comfortable in bed?   Not too hot? Not too cold?   For winter, make sure that electric blanket is turned off and the bedcovers are warm.  I recommend wool duvets for their low allergy, temperature regulating properties.  

In summer, make sure the bed covers are not too heavy and too hot. There is a range of 300 + 200gsm wool duvets that allows you to choose a combination that works for the ambient temperature.  Ensure that pyjamas are comfortable – no scratch tags or loose buttons.

Turn the bed away from the door, so that light under the door, or movement outside is noticed so readily.

It could be useful to isolate the bedroom as just the place your child goes to for sleeping.  Are there other places in the house which can be used for games, socialising and homework?  Can you make the bedroom the place where your child goes to sleep – and only to sleep?

The Bed

There has been a bit of chatter around toxins in beds and bedding - whcih can cause sensitivities in sleepers. Debra Lynn Dadd in her book (about toxins in everyday items and how they affect us) writes on page 3: 'About a year later, having not improved at all, another woman with MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivities ) asked me, “are you still sleeping on permanent-press sheets? They have a lot of formaldehyde on them, you know!“   http://debralynndadd.com/toxic-free-book

Perhaps some natural bedding may help by eliminating chemical toxins from the sleeping environment, and can also help to regulate body temperature and support better, deeper sleep.

Reduce light and sound

Light and sound are the primary triggers that prevent sleep.  

Remove sources of blue light.  Remove games, phones and iPods (the topic and cause of many bedtime conversations with my boys).  Can you remove light emitting things like an alarm clock or electronics on standby with a little red light showing?

Most importantly, use black-out curtains.  Removing environmental light will signal to the brain that its time for sleep.  You could try an eye mask – but is suspect that it is more likely to be a source of distraction.

Minimise noise interruptions from phones, doorbells and loud TVs elsewhere in the house. Like eye masks, you could try ear plugs, but I suspects they’ll become another distraction.  Is the bedroom the best one for minimised noise within the house?

 


 

I hope you find some solutions in there.  I believe that a cumulative bundle of natural solutions and behaviours is the best approach.  I'd love to hear your feedback and comments on this, so please comment at facebook.com/naturalsleep