This is a guest post written by Sarah Cummings.
When it comes to your children’s health, making sure they get enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do. Sleep boosts the immune system, improves mood, fosters creativity and productivity and enables us to be more thoughtful, tolerant people. Whereas sleep deprivation can lead to us falling sick often, to us being irritable and anxious in our daily lives, prone to mood swings and actions that our well-rested minds would never consider.
Getting sufficient sleep is essential for all of us; but even more so for those with a condition like ADHD. It can be the difference between becoming an ADHD allstar, who leans into their creativity to produce some truly amazing things and to being an ADHD “victim”, who lets it take over their lives in a negative way.
In fact, researchers have shown a clear link between ADHD and difficulty sleeping. Those with ADHD may experience more drowsiness during the day, or they’re more likely to have sleep-related disorders like restless leg syndrome. And if your child has ADHD, and is under-slept, their symptoms are likely to be a lot more exaggerated. One study in particular showed that by addressing and resolving sleeping difficulties, some participants were able to overcome attention and hyperactivity issues as a result.
And even though children and adults with ADHD react differently to sleep deprivation – kids become more hyperactive and aggressive while adults tend to get more sluggish and lethargic – the importance of getting enough sleep remains constant.
So how can you help your child get better sleep? Read on and find out…
1) Create an evening routine
Routines are probably part and parcel of your lives anyway. They help you get your kids fed and out the door to school in the morning with minimal fuss (at least, that’s the idea). But if you don’t have an evening routine in place, it’ll be a lot harder for your child to settle down at night – especially if they’ve had an active day.
You can’t simply expect them to flick a switch and go into “quiet mode”… you need the wind-down to be gradual. So before bedtime, follow a set of steps that lets your child know it’s nearly time to sleep. Give them a bath and change them into their jammies before reading them a bedtime story. If you do allow them back downstairs with the grown-up, make sure you’ve created a calm and soothing environment that won’t overstimulate them (more on that in a sec) and that they still go to bed at the same time each night. Resist the temptation to give in and let them stay up, even by 15 minutes more, as they’ll think they can bargain their way into a later bedtime the following night, too!
When it comes to sleeping more easily, routine in key. Don’t ignore it!
2) Switch off those screens
Remember when I said to create a calm environment, free from too much stimulation? Well, by this I mean those TVs, laptops and tablets that our kids might crowd around in the evening. Because unfortunately, these devices, although entertaining, can be quite harmful for your children’s sleep habits – particularly for those with ADHD. They block the production of melatonin, for one (which normally helps us to relax). They confused our body’s natural circadian rhythms, for another (which makes us think it’s daytime when it’s actually night). And they overstimulate the mind instead of helping it to settle down; pretty much the opposite of what your kids need in that moment!
You needn’t remove screens entirely from your life but just be aware of the effect they can have in the evenings. So after dinner, try and move your children away from the screens if possible. Switch them off at least one hour before bedtime and enjoy the other activities in your evening routine instead!
3) Keep playtime indoors
If you have an evening routine in place and you’ve managed to avoid screens before bedtime, you’re on the right track. Now don’t mess it all up by having your kids run riot outdoors! It’s tempting to do so in those long summer evenings, I know. It’s so nice outside and when your kids want to play hide and seek in the garden… it’s hard to refuse.
But trust me on this: getting them out in the fresh air, running around ’til their heart’s content, is not a good idea – at least, not before bedtime. They’ll be all hyped up with nowhere to go. Instead, stick to gentle indoor activities in the evening. Whether it’s baking or painting or scrapbook-making, engage them in quiet activities that will occupy them without overexciting them. Do these activities in a softly lit room, speak in a quiet voice and they’ll be looking sleepier and sleepier towards their bedtime.Hopefully these 3 tips will help your children get the sleep they deserve. If you need any more advice, on anything related to sleep, check out The Sleep Advisor’s website. Encourage your family to have a sweeter, sounder sleep and live healthier, happier lives as a result.