My child with ADHD can’t fall asleep. But I’m so tired. What can I do?

Q. My daughter has ADHD and a lot of trouble sleeping. She often struggles to fall asleep — or stay asleep. Nothing seems to work! I am so exhausted. But I stay up because I’m worried she won’t get enough sleep. What should I do? 

A. You’re not alone. Many parents of kids with ADHD struggle with their own sleep because they’re trying to get their kids to sleep.

First of all, understand that your child’s trouble with sleep is not a failure on your part. Kids with ADHD often have trouble sleeping. And many of the sleep tips you get from other parents might not work for your child. If you and your child are safely running around the block at night to release energy before bedtime, that’s fine. You do what you can. 

But just like the saying “You have to put your own oxygen mask on first,” it’s important for parents to get their sleep, too. If you’ve been up late every night trying to get your child to sleep, you’re probably burned out — and tired. 

It’s understandable to fear that if you go to sleep, your child will stay up until all hours of the night. But having your child up until 2 in the morning on a school night isn’t going to be the end of the world. Yes, she might be cranky and tired the next day. But you’ll be able to better support your daughter once you’ve had a good night’s sleep.

Some parents may feel selfish or self-centered if they choose to go to sleep. But try not to feel that way. When we take care of ourselves as parents, we are taking care of our kids. 

Finally, if there’s another caregiver in the household, don’t feel like you both have to stay up together. Support each other and make a plan to give each other a break. 

Speak up if you really need your sleep that night. Or, if you’re noticing that your partner really needs some sleep, say so. 

And remember, it’s OK to say, “Let’s both go to sleep. This is not a battle worth fighting tonight.” The next day, you’ll have more energy to come up with some sleep strategies to try.

For more of tips on ADHD and sleep from Dr. Olivardia, listen to this In It podcast episode.


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