25 ADHD Friendly Tips for a Good Nights Sleep

Serene man sleeping in bed in the morning
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Sleep, or rather lack of good quality sleep, is often an issue for children and adults living with ADHD. Sleep is so important for our ability to focus and concentrate, our moods, general health, and well-being. Unfortunately many people do not get the sleep they need. As a result, ADHD symptoms can be worse during the day.

This article has 25 sleep tips from readers who wrote in with the strategies they find helpful either for themselves or for their children.

Create a Bedtime Routine

A simple, consistent and relaxing routine before bed helps prepare your body for sleep. Here are some suggested activities to include in your bedtime routine. Try each one and see if it helps improve your sleep.When you have found what activities help you, use them every night. You could even write them down in a bedtime routine checklist. 

1) Have a Warm Shower or Bath.  

Sometimes, very simple things can be very effective. Having a bath or shower is relaxing and will help you to fall asleep.  

2)  Aromatherapy

Some people found that using aromatherapy oil at bath time helped them sleep, particular scents like lavender, jasmine, and chamomile. One parent shares what is helpful for her daughter.

"...a shower before bed using some of the sleep specific bath gels and aromatherapy. She also has a little bean bag that is filled with herb,s such as lavender and chamomile, which can be heated in the microwave and placed on her pillow while she sleeps.”

3) A Warm Cup of Tea

Many readers find that a cup of warm chamomile, green or “sweet dreams” tea helps promote a good night’s sleep.

4) A Light Healthy Snack

Too much food before bedtime can make sleep more difficult, but many readers find that a light snack is helpful. One parent’s suggestion -- toast with shaved turkey breast and cheese microwaved for 45 seconds with a glass of milk.

5) Quiet Time

Spending some quiet time before bed helps the brain wind down and prepare for sleep. Here are some options to try during your quiet time:

  • Quiet, focused playtime for children
  • Reading time for both adults and children
  • Listening to relaxing music or soothing “outdoor” sounds like running water or crickets 
  • Deep relaxation and breathing exercises
  • Visualization  
  • Meditation 

6) Think Positive Thoughts

Though it may take some time to readjust your thinking, try to think “happy thoughts” at bedtime. Set aside those worries and any negative thoughts and get into the habit of positive thinking at bedtime. One parent helps her child think of his favorite place -- the beach in Florida. To help visualize and reinforce these positive thoughts, she even bought her son a special clock that plays ocean wave sounds. These soothing and happy sounds have helped promote happy thoughts and good feelings around bedtime and sleep has been easier for her son.

The suggestions so far have been for items to include in a bedtime routine. However, it is also important to mention several things to avoid.

7) Don’t Start a Hyperfocus Activity at Bedtime

Even though it can be hard, do not begin an activity that you or your child will hyperfocus on as it can be very hard to disengage and go to bed.

One reader shares:

“Another thing, or skill, I am trying to perfect, is not to start any projects or engaging things within the time I should be winding down for bed, like don't get into a distracting or hyper-focus type of thing. I used to get on the computer or into a video game or start an intense drawing to close to a reasonable bedtime and look up at the clock and realize I had just blown 3 or 4 hours of sleep time! Yikes!” 

Both adults and children can hyperfocus when they are using their computer. One reader found removing the TV and computer from the bedroom helped.

“I had to rearrange my room and take the computer out of there and my TV and any distractions and make it just for sleeping and maybe one other thing!”

8) Don’t Drink Alcohol

Many people think of alcohol as a sedative. Indeed, it does appear to help induce sleep. However, your night time sleep will be less restful and more disruptive. Alcohol can increase the number of times you wake up throughout the night, and it stops you from getting the deep sleep you need to feel rested in the morning.

Alcohol is a diuretic and can cause you to wake up several times during the night to urinate. One reader shares her experience with alcohol below.

“I found out that I was self-medicating with it to calm down and sleep, but it actually worked the opposite way by not letting me reach some type of stage of sleep, you know the deep sleep level.” 

9) Don’t Drink Caffeine

Caffeine is a diuretic, so you may be making several bathroom trips during the night if you’ve consumed caffeine close to bedtime. Caffeine is also a stimulant, which can keep some people awake. Most readers, found it helpful to avoid caffeine at least 4 hours before bedtime or even eliminate it completely.

“Sleep (or lack thereof) has always been an issue, getting to sleep in the first place, staying asleep, etc. Over the last 6 months or so, I’ve made two simple lifestyle changes that have virtually eliminated insomnia. I gave up caffeine (tea and Coke were my weaknesses!) and made a commitment to bless my body with at least 45 minutes of exercise every day. When I do slip up and drink caffeine, it totally wrecks my sleep. Had a glass of Coke at a friend's house recently -- I was up all night! Not cool.” 

However, one reader noted that a little caffeine helped ease the restlessness she feels at nighttime, stimulating her just enough to go to sleep. 

10) Don’t Smoke 

We all know smoking can be harmful to your lungs, but nicotine may also make it more difficult to fall asleep and can result in disrupted sleep during the night.

11) Don’t Eat Sugar

Avoid sugary foods and drinks late in the day. That extra initial energy boost from sugars can make it more difficult to fall asleep. 

How to Fall Asleep

All of the activities in the bedtime routine will help to prepare you for sleep. Here are some additional rituals that can help you or your child fall asleep once you have climbed into bed.

12) Listen to an Audio Book 

Listening to audio book is helpful for children and adults

“My ADD son has always had difficulty letting his mind wind down so that he can fall asleep. When he was in early elementary we let him start listening to an excellent series of story tapes/CDS called ‘Adventures in Odyssey.’ They helped him relax with the lights out and eventually fall asleep.” 

“I decided to listen to a book on tape just before bedtime. I lay in bed in the dark with my eyes closed and listened. The tape would play for 30 minutes and then click off. Funny thing was that it took me several days to finish even the first side of the first tape because I kept falling asleep after just a few minutes of listening.

13) Read a Book

Lots of readers like to read a book to prepare for sleep. One reader noted that if the book is really interesting, reading can sometimes backfire as it is easy to get sucked into a good book and read for hours! Her suggestion? A magazine. 

14) White Noise

What is white noise? Any gentle, steady, monotonous, peaceful sound like a fan humming or background sounds that are calming and not stimulating.

“I use a fan for white noise...can’t fall asleep without it. It muffles the traffic noise so it doesn’t draw my attention and wake up my brain. It also feels like an audible cushion of sorts. The room feels ‘empty’ without the fan on.” 

15) A Transitional Object

A soft, plush blanket or special, safe toy can help babies and toddlers transition to bedtime. Many parents shared that a simple transitional object continues to be helpful for their older children, as well.

We allow our son to take something to bed. It helps entertain his mind and hands in the event he is not ready to sleep right when he goes down.”

16) Stop Worrying

Once your head hits the pillow, problems of the day can start racing through your mind making sleep impossible. One way to stop this is to keep a pen and pad of paper by your bedside. Jot down your thoughts and worries and promise yourself you will address them in the morning.

Another strategy is try this reader's tip

“I still have days I have a full mind and I have not solved some problem or I am wrapped around the axle because something made me mad and I find myself in that negative cycle of crud! I am learning to analyze these things and realize that maybe I cannot solve them right away and I am learning to put them on a shelf for a later time...I am also learning this thing of visualizing a filter at my office door to leave work issues at work and not dwell and obsess about them at night!”

17) Sleep Environment

A good pillow always helps! Make sure your sleep environment is comfortable and conducive to sleep – pillows and mattress are comfortable, lights are dim, temperature is cool (not cold or too warm), etc.


Some people find supplements help them with their sleep. It is important that you consult with your doctor before taking them as they may interact or interfere with other drugs you are taking.

18) Melatonin

This naturally occurring hormone is secreted by a part of the brain called the pineal gland. Melatonin helps us regulate our sleep. When it is dark the production of melatonin is stimulated, and when it is light the production is suppressed. Many readers have found melatonin supplements to be helpful for inducing sleep.

19) L-Theanine

One  reader shares that L-Theanine combined with melatonin is helpful. L-Theanine is an amino acid commonly found in green tea leaves. It is thought to reduce stress and promote relaxation.

Additional suggestions

20) Have a Regular Bedtime and Wake Up Time

Many readers find that going to bed at a set time each night and waking up at a regular time each morning promotes better sleep. Our own internal biological clock helps regulate our sleep and wake cycles. It functions according to normal day and night schedules. When we maintain a regular wake up time in the morning it helps with falling asleep at night. A consistent bedtime at night in turn helps ensure that we get the adequate sleep we need.

21) Exercise

Lots of readers find that exercise not only promotes good health, and overall good feelings, it also promotes good sleep. Vigorous exercise right before bed isn’t recommended, but exercise during the day will make it easier to get to sleep and stay asleep at night. Be sure to include lots of physical outdoor play for your ADHD children. 

22) Be Patient With Changes

Sleep issues make take some time to resolve, so be patient. Stick with your routine and slowly but surely you will begin to experience the benefits of a good night’s sleep.

Visit your doctor

While many sleep strategies can be implemented on your own at, there are times when medical advice is needed. The last 3 tips are topics to talk to your doctor about.

23) Check Iron Levels 

Get your iron level checked. Some people with iron deficiency anemia experience restless leg syndrome (RLS) which can cause difficulty falling and staying asleep.

“My 12-year-old son with ADHD was found to be iron deficient. He has been on replacement therapy, and it really has seemed to help the sleep problem. I did not realize prior to this that being iron deficient would inhibit sleep!” 

24) Adjust Medication Times

Several readers found that an adjustment in their ADHD medication dosage or the time they take their medication helped make sleep a little easier. Speak with your doctor about this.

25) If Sleep Problems Continue

Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy, or other medical issues may be causing or contributing to  the sleep problems. If you continue to have concerns about sleep, consult with your doctor.

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