ADHD children and sleep


A lot of children have difficulty falling asleep at night. The picture above by Max Felner sums up the  busyness of the brain and the tiredness of the body in children who have a hard time falling asleep.

In general children today sleep one hour less than 25 years ago. Imbalances and stress are often causing children to have trouble falling asleep and give makes them sleep lighter.

If you are a parent to a child with ADHD your probably spend a lot of energy trying to help your child to sleep, and you often see that your child isn’t rested when it is time to get up and go to school or kindergarten.

When children go tired to school or kindergarten, it means that their inner battery isn’t fully charged, leading to more conflicts, difficulty in staying focused, and a moody afternoon leading to more conflicts and making it harder to fall asleep. It often becomes a endless circle of tiredness and challenges.

Do children with ADHD sleep even less?

According to the Danish ADHD-Association children with ADHD more often than other children have problems sleeping and benefit very well from getting help to get the sleep they need.

“Lack of sleep affects everybody, and studies have shown that poor sleep can cause problems that may resemble the difficulties you see in people with ADHD. When you have both ADHD and sleep problems, you are extra congested, and it is therefore particularly important that people with ADHD take sleep problems seriously and do something to reduce them.”

Source: The Danish ADHD-Association

Here is a rule of thumb from the Danish ADHD-Association about how much sleep all children need:

  • A 3-year old: 10 – 14 hours
  • Preschool: 10 – 12 hours
  • School children (6-12 years): 9-12 hours
  • Teenagers (13-15 years): 9-10 hours


What are the symptoms of ADHD? 

Are you not sure whether your child has ADHD? Here are some of the symptoms we often see in children with ADHD.

“Children with ADHD are particularly sensitive to stimuli from sight, hearing and touch. When they are overstimulated, they quickly lose control, become rutted and are sometimes aggressive or express themselves with physical or verbal abusiveness. Children with ADHD who are characterized by inattention, may look to drift away in their own thoughts and lose touch with what is happening around them.

The symptoms can be different for boys and girls. Boys want to be more hyperactive and girls will be more inattentive. In addition, inattentive girls often daydream while inattentive boys tend to play or frolic aimlessly. Boys can also be less obedient to teachers and other adults so their behaviour is often more conspicuous.”

Source: (national Danish health portal)


How is lack of sleep affecting children with ADHD? 

Several researchers are eager to find out why lack of sleep is seen more often in children with ADHD. They are also looking at whether lack of sleep enhances ADHD symptoms in children.

“I think perhaps we should focus on a treatment that can help children get a better quality of sleep…We know that when children do not get enough sleep that itself can cause hyperactivity,” says Ole Jakob Storebø who is a researcher at the Psychiatric Research Unit Slagelse, Region Zealand.


In the article Storebø also questions whether the typical medication children get for the ADHD could be disturbing sleep itself.


Can a general lack of sleep cause symptoms of ADHD in healthy children?

A study on sleep disorders, which Allan Hvolby, a child psychiatrist at the Children and Adolescent Psychiatric department in Esbjerg has conducted, shows that healthy children who over time get to little sleep can develop symptoms that resemble ADHD.

Restlessness, agitation in the body, concentration problems and learning difficulties are some of the symptoms observed in healthy but tired children. “If you have a child with these features it is a good idea to look at the child’s sleeping habits. Just one hour too little a day can be of great importance for the child’s well-being” he says.


How meditation and mindfulness can help children with ADHD

Millions of children all over the world have been diagnosed with ADHD and are taking medication. More studies show great benefits in replacing or supporting ADHD medication with training in mindfulness and meditation.

All children benefit from this training, however, children with ADHD have reported improved attention spans and less hyperactivity. Mindfulness and meditation can help children with ADHD to reduce stress and increase self-acceptance. The benefits of being able to regulate emotions, calm down, feel your body, get grounded, breathe, focus, and learn how to quiet your mind—are invaluable skills for children with ADHD to learn. Doing mindfulness or meditation before bedtime help children with ADHD fall asleep more easily and also sleep better through the night. Especially the effects of quieting the mind and letting go help children with ADHD fall asleep.



Get the book

The Children’s Meditations In my Heart by Gitte Winter Graugaard helps children fall asleep. Including children with special needs such as autism, anxiety, disability, sensitivity and ADHD.

Always ask your doctor for advice about ADHD.

“My 7yr old has Autism and ADHD and suffers very bad with anxiety, the last 3mths it has taking him longer to get to sleep sometimes 11.30pm. I read him the first story tonight for the first time and he didn’t get back out of bed and he was asleep on 10mins long may it last. Thank you”.