Remember the days when a bedtime story and a loving lullaby lulled your little one to sleep?
Me neither. My very active children fought sleep every step of the way. As proof, I have pictures of toddlers and pre-schoolers asleep with faces down on: a high chair tray, the arm of our sofa, the dining room table and the floor. That’s Kayla’s Joe in the picture.
Unfortunately their resistance to a reasonable bedtime didn’t change much as teens. They just slept later when they could.
It’s a double problem for our kids. As you know, one of the symptoms of ADHD-I is erratic sleep patterns. And one of the side-effects of ADHD meds to is that a child may have trouble falling asleep.
It’s certainly true that sleep needs can vary somewhat for each individual; however, as a parent, you want to encourage your child to settle into a routine and get enough sleep for her.
Take a look at the following tried and true tips to help your child get to bed and to sleep a little earlier:
1. Timers rock. They may not rock your child to sleep, but they put a reasonable boundary on each step to get your child ready for bed. The timer saves you from nagging. Set the timer for cleaning up the toy room – last step before baths. Play beat the clock! Timers for ADHD can be the stuff of sweet dreams.
2. Homework stops. Keep homework as efficient as you can and try not to let it run right up to bedtime. One fun tool to help you stay on track is evernote.com/peek, an application on your smart phone or android that can help you and your child make quick flash cards. Just allow enough down time after homework and before bed.
3. Routines matter. Choose your bedtime routines carefully because a 6-year-old is very legalistic about how many books you read last night. Scientific research continues to prove that a warm bath can help anyone settle down. The theory is that when your body’s temperature drops, it’s a signal to relax and sleep. Raising your body’s temperature artificially with a warm bath one to two hours before bedtime initiates a natural drop in body temperature (when you get out), relaxation and sound sleep.
4. Screen out distraction. At least 30 minutes before bedtime, say no to television, computer screens, tablets and smart phones. As an expat parent, I quickly learned that for our family, 2 out of 3 children could easily stay up every nanosecond of an overnight flight provided there was in-flight entertainment (i.e. television and video games)
5. Snack healthily. A protein snack like yogurt, cheese and crackers or peanut butter on celery before bedtime can help some children settle down, especially those whose appetites may have been dulled as a side effect of certain ADHD-inattentive management medications.
6. Embrace melatonin. When rhythms of day and night seem to be skewed, melatonin can bring the right balance back. Ask your doctor, though. There are varying opinions on this one.
8. Love classical music. Brahms, Bach and Beethoven playing softly can work wonders with some children. Dr. Jeffrey Thompon has put together several sleep CD’s of relaxing music here.
(Yawn) All this talk about sleep is wearing me out, and it’s not bedtime yet. How about you? Let us know what snooze-encouraging ideas work at your house. Kayla and I love to hear from you.