Good sleep hygiene is essential for daily functioning, especially for children who must be wide awake and fresh to start their studies every day at school.
It’s important therefore to know that researchers have found a link between ADHD and the so-called “CLOCK” gene, which helps to regulate the circadian rhythm, which tells the body when to sleep, wake up and eat.
Children with ADHD tend to have more disturbances in their circadian rhythm, and they have more difficulty falling asleep at the bedtime, according to a 2005 study published in The Journal of Biological and Medical Rhythm Research.
Lead researcher Kristiaan B. Van der Heijden of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University of Amsterdam in The Netherlands, and a team of three other researchers, found that children with ADHD who had chronic difficulty getting to sleep, had a delayed sleep phase and delay in the body’s production of melatonin, as compared to ADHD children without sleep-onset insomnia.
But there are other reasons that children with ADHD have trouble getting to sleep that involve the circadian rhythm that involve the environment.
Sunlight – as opposed to a darkened room – negatively affects the body’s production of melatonin. So does exposure to artificial light – particularly blue light, such as that produced from electronic devices like computers, cell phones, video games, laptops and tablets.
When children use electronics just before bedtime, they’re much less likely to feel tired, let alone sleepy.
In a 2017 study published by the Journal of European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, lead researcher Harriet Hiscock of the Department of Family Medicine at McGill University in Montreal, Canada together with four researchers from Australia found, “More consistent parenting was associated with decreased bedtime resistance and decreased sleep anxiety… poorer sleep hygiene was associated with increased bedtime resistance, increased daytime sleepiness and increased sleep duration problems. In conclusion, sleep hygiene and parenting are important modifiable factors independently associated with sleep problems in children with ADHD.”
According to the study, 36 percent of children with ADHD were using electronics right before lights were turned off. Not only does this stop melatonin production, but it also provides excess stimulation to the central nervous system, making it that much harder for the child to wind down.
So, best bets:
- One hour before bedtime, train the child to put away electronics, dim the lights and bring out a book (hard copy, not a Kindle edition).
- Bedtime should be consistent. Develop a daily routine, which helps the body get into the “rhythm” the child needs to wind down to sleep. This means weekends too!
- Avoid stress in the bedroom. Good sleep hygiene means a calm, positive bedroom environment. Your child’s bedroom (and yours!) should be seen as a refuge, rest and relaxation place. This will make “winding down” that much easier.
- Ensure there are fresh-smelling, clean linens. Probably an unnecessary reminder, but children can create havoc in the bedroom so a quick note about laundry – check your child’s bed sheets for odor. If the bed smells fresh, your child is much more likely to hop in and snuggle under.