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8 Sleep Tips for Kids with ADHD and Asperger Syndrome (ASD)

Help Your Child Get More Sleep

Kids with ADHD and Asperger Syndrome (ASD) often struggle to get enough sleep, and, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, kids with ADHD who get inadequate sleep experience significant deterioration in their ability to pay attention and achieve academic success. While sleep may be hard to come by for kids with neuro-developmental disorders, a recent study suggests that even moderate sleep gains (approximately 30 more minutes each night) can lead to improved alertness and better behavior in school-aged children. Find below eight tips to calm your child before bedtime and help him or her get more restorative sleep.

Exercise daily and avoid trigger foods. Make exercise and nutrition priorities for your family. Kids should get at least an hour of physical activity each day. While exercise will help keep kids physically fit, it will also help them sleep better at night. In addition, make healthy eating habits the norm for your family by avoiding caffeine and artificial ingredients that may promote hyperactivity. Consider nutritional testing to determine if your child has dietary or digestion issues like food sensitivities or vitamin, mineral, and amino acid deficiencies that can exacerbate anxiety and sleep problems.

Stick to a schedule. Decide ahead of time with your child what the night time routine will be, and  include when to bathe, brush teeth, read, etc. Remember, kids with neuro-developmental disorders like ADHD and Asperger Syndrome (ASD) need routine and predictability even more than other kids. Make sure the hour before bedtime is calm and quiet and that lights are kept low so the body can produce enough melatonin, the body's natural sleep hormone.

Set a bedtime alarm. Just as you set an alarm for waking, consider setting a bedtime alarm so kids associate their bedtime with a clock or timer instead of feeling like sleep is a parental demand. Make sure the sound of the alarm is quiet and not intrusive. Eventually, your child will naturally associate the sound of the bedtime alarm with sleepiness.

Use white noise and blackout curtains. Kids with sensory issues often have extremely sensitive hearing. Using white noise or nature sounds to block neighborhood or household sounds is essential. Try an air purifier or fan for white noise or download an app that offers different nature sounds. You may have to try several sounds before you find one that works for your child. In addition, use blackout curtains to eliminate light in the room. Too much light at bedtime can interfere with the body's melatonin production, so avoid screen time an hour before going to bed as well.

Try aroma therapy. Essential oils like lavender, chamomile, sandalwood, or vanilla can be calming for many people who experience sleeplessness. Let your child choose a calming scent that appeals to him or her, and then dab a little oil on a cotton ball and place it in his or her pillowcase.

Reduce anxiety. Anxious kids, like anxious adults, often have too much on their minds to fall asleep at night. Use these strategies to calm an anxious child so he or she has a better chance of falling asleep naturally.

Sleep with a weighted blanket. Kids with neuro-developmental disorders like ADHD and Asperger Syndrome (ASD) often crave deep pressure and have poor proprioception, which means they have trouble understanding where their bodies are in space . A heavy, weighted blanket can apply deep pressure to muscles and joints throughout the night, which helps regulate a disorganized sense of self and calm an overactive central nervous system.  Organizing and calming the senses can support the body's natural ability to fall asleep.

Consider melatonin. If you've tried all of the above sleep suggestions, and your child with a neuro-developmental disorder still isn't getting enough sleep, ask your health care provider about supplemental melatonin. It could be that your child isn't producing enough melatonin naturally to fall asleep and stay asleep. Melatonin dosing varies by age and size, so be sure to check with your healthcare provider about whether supplemental melatonin is right for your child.

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Disclaimer: The information presented on this web site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment of specific medical conditions. Discuss this information with your healthcare provider to determine what is right for you and your family.

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