Tips for Better Sleep With ADHD

Girl sleeping on bed in morning

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Sleep is important for your ability to focus and concentrate, mood, general health, and well-being. Unfortunately, many people with ADHD do not get the sleep they need. In fact, roughly 25% to 50% of people who have ADHD also have sleep problems. As a result, ADHD symptoms can be worse during the day.

These sleep strategies can help adults and children with ADHD get a better night's sleep.

An ADHD-Friendly 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:

  • Drink a warm cup of tea. Many people find that a cup of warm chamomile or “sweet dreams” tea helps promote a good night’s sleep. Be sure to choose a tea that doesn't have caffeine.
  • Eat a light healthy snack. Too much food before bedtime can make sleep more difficult, but many people find that a light snack is helpful.
  • Have dedicated quiet time. Spending some quiet time before bed helps the brain wind down and prepare for sleep. Try 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.
  • Take a warm shower or bath. Sometimes, simple things can be very effective. Having a bath or shower is relaxing and will help you to fall asleep.
  • 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 negative thoughts. Get into the habit of positive thinking at bedtime. Think of a favorite place, such as the beach. You might even play ocean sounds. Happy thoughts and good feelings can make it easier to drift off to sleep.
  • Try aromatherapy. Some people find that using aromatherapy oil at bath time helps them sleep, particularly scents like lavender, jasmine, and chamomile.

Avoid Things That Keep You Awake

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:

  • Avoid alcohol. Alcohol is often thought of as a sedative. Although it appears to induce sleep, your sleep will be less restful and more disrupted. Alcohol increases how often you wake up at night and stops you from getting the deep sleep you need to feel rested in the morning. Alcohol is also a diuretic and can cause you to wake up several times to urinate.
  • Avoid 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.
  • Don’t drink caffeine. Avoid caffeine for at least 4 hours before bedtime or even eliminate it completely. 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.
  • Don’t smoke. Not only is smoking harmful to your lungs, but nicotine may also make it more difficult to fall asleep and can result in disrupted sleep during the night.
  • Don’t start a hyperfocused 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. Both adults and children can hyperfocus when they are using their computers or mobile phone. Removing the TV, computer, and mobile phone from the bedroom helps.

More Rituals to Try

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 climb into bed.

  • Listen to an audiobook. A nice story can help children and adults wind down. Try listening in the dark with your eyes closed.
  • Prepare your sleep environment. Make sure your sleep environment is conducive to sleep—pillows and mattresses are comfortable, lights are dim, the temperature is cool (between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit) and it is quiet.
  • Read. Many people read a book or magazine to prepare for sleep. However, a really gripping book may backfire and keep you turning the pages for hours. A magazine might be a safer choice as the articles are much shorter, no matter how interesting.
  • 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.
  • Turn on some white noise. White noise is a gentle, steady, monotonous, peaceful sound like a fan humming or background sounds that are calming and not stimulating.
  • Use a transitional object. A soft, plush blanket or special, safe toy can help babies and toddlers transition to bedtime. A simple transitional object can continue to be helpful for older children.

Practice Healthy Habits

Implement these healthy habits to help facilitate healthy sleep.

  • 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.
  • Establish a consistent bedtime and wake-up time. Going to bed at a set time each night and waking up at a regular time each morning promotes better sleep. Your internal biological clock helps regulate your sleep and wake cycles. Consistency helps keep that clock set right and ensures you get the adequate sleep you need.
  • Exercise. It promotes good health and overall well-being and also promotes good sleep. Vigorous exercise right before bed isn’t recommended, but numerous studies have found that regular exercise can improve your sleep quality. Be sure to include lots of physical outdoor play for your children who have ADHD.

Supplements That Promote Sleep

Some people find supplements to 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.


This naturally-occurring hormone is secreted by a part of the brain called the pineal gland. Melatonin helps to regulate sleep. The dark stimulates the production of melatonin and light suppresses it.

Melatonin can improve sleep onset and duration in children with ADHD and the elderly. It can also be helpful with those who work rotating shifts or are dealing with jet lag. Discuss using melatonin with your doctor as it may interact with other medications and supplements.


This is an amino acid found in green and black tea that seems to work against the effects of caffeine. It is used by some people to reduce stress and promote relaxation. However, you could get its benefits by drinking tea earlier in the day (avoid caffeine in the evening).

One study found that L-theanine can help improve sleep quality in boys, ages 8 to 12, with ADHD. Be sure to discuss any supplements with your doctor in case they may interact with medications.

Visit Your Doctor

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

  • Adjust medication times. An adjustment in your ADHD medication dosage or the time medication is taken may help make sleep a little easier. Speak to your doctor about this.
  • Check iron levels. Some people with iron deficiency anemia experience restless leg syndrome (RLS) which can cause difficulty falling and staying asleep.
  • Seek help if sleep problems continue. Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy, or other medical issues may be causing or contributing to sleep problems. If you continue to have concerns about sleep, consult your doctor.
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7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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