Quality sleep is a key component for optimal health and fighting any chronic disease, including ADHD. Sleep issues can be associated with poorer working memory, mood, metabolism, immunity, focus and learning. The challenges of everyday life prioritize “getting things done” over hitting the sack. I’ve personally experienced chronic sleep deprivation and know first-hand, the impact it can have on quality of life and overall health. Making an effort to prioritize sleep can rejuvenate the mind and body, restore critical neurotransmitters, and allow for optimal physical and mental functionality.
Please note the following expert recommendations for sleep:
Age 1-3: 12-14 hours
Age 3-5 11-13 hours
Age 5-11: 10-11 hours
Age 11+: 8.5-9.5 hours
Adults: 7-9 hours
Easier said than done right? So what can you do? Here are 6 things to try to improve sleep (for adults and children):
1. Take stimulants early in the day. Stimulant medications can disrupt sleep. If you’re using them, try taking a long acting agent early in the day, so the effects have subsided by bedtime. I absolutely understand the challenges of the “wearing off” period, especially when kids come home from school, when trying to get homework done, etc. Work with your physician to find an optimal dosing schedule.
2. Stop screen time 1.5-2 hours before bed. This is HARD! Considering TV and video games can be considered a “quiet” activity, but it can be over-stimulating for many people. Reading (an actual book) or taking a bath can help kids wind down and get ready for bedtime.
3. Smart supplementation (especially Vitamin D and magnesium). I’ve talked about supplementation in a previous post, but Vitamin D3 supplementation, as well as magnesium can be helpful to restore sleep issues. Also, working with a functional medicine practitioner can help identify other micronutrient or neurotransmitter deficiencies (GABA, serotonin, etc), that can be critical to a good night’s sleep.
4. Try a regular bedtime routine. BORING! Actually, keeping kid’s bedtimes intact can tremendously help with the sleep process. I know after deviating from my own children’s sleep patterns, they can be thrown off for days. As much as possible, try to keep to the same bedtime and routine (even on the weekends)!
5. Climate matters. Keeping a bedroom cool (65-70 degrees) and dark (with room darkening shades or covering any clock lights) can significantly improve sleep quality.
6. Essential oils. I am a huge proponent of lavender, vetiver and roman chamomile in helping promote good sleep. Try diffusing any of these oils or in combination before bed.
Why I DON’T regularly recommend melatonin:
Melatonin is a hormone which regulates sleep. If sleep is suffering, low-dose melatonin can be given in the short-term (i.e. 1-2 weeks). Giving it any longer can cause the body to down-regulate it’s natural ability to produce this important hormone.
Sciberras E, DePetro A, Mensah F et al. Association between sleep and working memory in children with ADHD: A cross sectional study. Sleep Med. 2015 Oct;16(10):1192-7. Epub 2015 Jul 6.
Giustra-Kozek J. Healing without hurting. Treating ADHD, Apraxia, and Autism Spectrum Disorders Naturally and Effectively Without Harmful Medication; 2014
Geersteen, L. 7 Ways to Balance Melatonin Naturally. September 11, 2014.
Prefer to listen?
Revolutionary Health Radio. Why Most People Are Sleep Deprived and What to do About it.
The Model Health Show Podcast. Help Me Sleep! – 21 Ways To Cure Your Sleep Problems (Part 1).
The Paleo View Podcast. Sleep Troubles.