4 Sleep Tips for ADHD Teens

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I see that researchers have unveiled the findings of a Teen ADHD Sleep Study. The results: increasing sleep directly increases focus in teens with ADHD.

I find this study somewhat amusing. My guess is that the study would yield the same results with any sample group. Neurotypical (NT) teens, seniors, overweight 30 year-old males, ladies who have just had their hair colored, ANYTHING.

Seriously, this study reminds of when I conducted “Scientific Experiments” in college and was only allowed to conduct studies on things that other scientists had already studies. Of course depriving a population of sleep will reduce their executive functioning skills!

Back on track.

The ADHD Sleep Study looked at a single group of ADHD teens.

In week one, the teens were allowed 6 ½ hours of sleep per night. In week two, the teens were allowed 9 ½ hours of sleep per night. At the end of each week, the researchers administered the executive function test known.

Not surprisingly, the results of the tests indicated that sleep-restricted ADHD teens showed significant deficits in executive functions.

Their working memory suffered. Planning and organizational skills were poor. Emotions were strained. The teens showed lack of initiation and inhibition (ambition and self-control?).

I am always interested in these studies. I enjoy scientific research and I try to extract relevant information for my own use.

With this study, I felt a bit cheated. I didn’t learn anything new.

Yes, lack of sleep directly impedes most people’s executive functioning. I know this. Most ADHD moms know this. I wanted to know more about how to help my ADHD teen sleep better.

Sleep increases executive functioning.

The top article in my news feed about ADHD teens and sleep was published by the American Physiological Society. More sleep may help teens with ADHD focus and organize.” At the bottom of this article, they provided a link to a previous ADHD teen sleep study from 2016.

The 2016 sleep study found that kids with ADHD had trouble sleeping. Sound Sleep Elusive for kids with ADHD.”

How ironic! Yesterday’s researchers found that ADHD kids have trouble sleeping. Today’s researchers found that if one can get ADHD kids to sleep more, their executive functioning will improve.

I am hopeful that the next ADHD sleep study will research how to increase sleep in ADHD teens and kids.

Four Sleep Tips for ADHD Teens

Here are Four Sleep Tips for ADHD Teens that I gleaned from my family’s journies.

Weighted Blankets

Melatonin and B Vitamins

Dopamine

Magnesium and Electrolytes

 

Weighted Blankets

I have a nephew who used to have trouble sleeping. He tossed. He turned. He was all over the place and he woke up tired. Every day.  

This weighted blanket now helps my nephew sleep. He no longer wakes up yawning. My nephew is a “little tyke,” not a teen, but I know that  weighted blankets also work for “older tykes.”

 

Reviews on this adult sized weighted blanked claim that it reduces  anxiety, increases sleep by over two hours a night, and remarkably, isn’t too hot!

I personally have never tried weighted blankets for myself or my son. After talking to my sister and reading about this adult-sized weighted blanket, I know what I will be buying next.

My sister recommends buying a weighted blanket in a size that covers the sleeper completely. Don’t short yourself and buy a small one – it won’t compare. She also recommends buying a model that has a washable cover for the blanket. The kids sized blanket she recommended has a washable cover. The adult size blanket I found does not. Thank you, Sis, for sharing your journey too!

 

Melatonin and B Vitamins.

Melatonin is a natural hormone that can help children and adults fall  asleep. Unfortunately, studies have not correlated melatonin use with improvement in ADHD symptoms. (Webmd.com).

Something that I find interesting is that our bodies use vitamins B6, niacinamide (B3), and B12 in the synthesis of Melatonin. Research shows that people with ADHD often have trouble metabolizing B vitamins. Is this a coincidence? Or is there a relationship between our bodies’ ability to metabolize the B vitamins and ADHD? Researchers, please take note!

My child’s ADHD specialist stresses the importance of B vitamins. She says B vitamins will reduce my son’s anxiety and will help increase his focus. My son has been on a metabolism-friendly B vitamin for awhile now. I can’t say whether the B vitamin has improved his sleep patterns, but I can say that it has improved his anxiety.  

Back to Melatonin.

We know that Melatonin plays a role in helping us fall asleep. My ADHD teen and I have both used melatonin in the past. We concur that it helped us fall asleep.

We also noticed that, after awhile, we found that we had a harder time falling asleep without melatonin. We started relying on it. I don’t know if this was a normal development, or if I was an oddity. In any case, I did not want us to become dependent on a hormone in order to sleep, so we stopped using it.

 

Dopamine.

My family’s chiropractic neurologist recommended Dopamine as a sleep aid. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter. It helps transmit signals from one nerve cell to the next. It also plays a role in sleep regulation.

Some genetic mutations can result in the inability to create dopamine. My teen tests positive for a subclinical level of one such mutation. The degree of his mutation is not supposed to be high enough to cause any deficits. But I thought – maybe adding dopamine to his list of supplements would help.

My chiropractic neurologist recommended a spray Dopamine product. Three squirts in the back of the mouth was all my son needed. No pills, easy. We used it faithfully for several months before giving up on it.

Unfortunately, we did not have success with this product. Our chiropractic neurologist said finding the right neurotransmitter booster is a case of trial and error. I guess this one was error.

Fast forward a few years to a new ADHD specialist. Every doctor has different theories and different experiences with product success. Her journey taught her a possible reason why the neurotransmitter dopamine spray failed to effect my son’s ADHD symptoms.

I have her explanation diagramed out on some notepad is currently lost in the mess of my office.

In short: It doesn’t matter how much dopamine is present in my son’s body. His neurons can’t use any of it until his digestive system and his red blood cells are tuned up.

Fascinating.

I was already providing support to my son’s digestive system with digestive enzymes and anti-inflammatory supplements. I had not yet done anything to address red blood cell formation.

My child’s ADHD specialist recommended a powerful free-radical known as Pycnogenol. An interesting video about Pycnogenol can be viewed here.

There are several Pycnogenol products on the market. The one that our ADHD specialist recommended is Isotonix OPC-3. OPC-3 is a mix of three powerful free radicals. The “P” in the name stands for Pycnogenol.  OPC-3 is a powder that is mixed with water and consumed on an empty stomach once per day, preferably in the morning. Note, it may take up to 6 weeks to see full results.

I embraced the OPC-3 with open arms and I saw results! In my ADHD son, I saw more self-confidence and improved focus. I was so heartened by what I saw that I gave it to my shy neurotypical daughter. Same results.  

I am excited to try reintroducing Dopamine into my son’s supplement regime again. I am excited to see, now that my son’s red blood cells are in better shape, if adding more neurotransmitters will further help him.

I believe that reintroducing Dopamine could improve my child’s sleep patterns and may help with is other executive functioning skills as well.

Magnesium and other electrolytes.

Magnesium and other minerals act as electrolytes in our bodies. Electrolytes change how our neurotransmitter receptors fire. In other
words, electrolytes can effect our memory, our focus, and all other executive functions.

Magnesium specifically is recommended as a calming or sleep aid. In scientific jargin, magnesium changes how the GABA neurotransmitter receptors work. Like Dopamine, GABA neurotransmitters are related to sleep and calming.

My son has good results with Natural Vitality Calm-Ease magnesium supplement. He says it makes his head sluggish. I say it slows his head down to a normal level. It calms him down, brings him down a notch.

Calm-Ease is a powder that is mixed with water. My children both prefer the unflavored variety that only contains magnesium, no calcium. The variety with calcium has a sharper taste.

I recommend only purchasing Calm-Ease only from health food stores or reputable vitamin shops. Third party sellers have ben known to accidentally sell counterfeit product.

I have read reports of consumers receiving opened bottles of products that appeared to be filled with baking soda instead of magnesium. Many of these third-party sellers won’t take returns on nutritional supplements, so if you get a counterfeit batch, you are out of luck.

 Magnesium does not need to be consumed orally (by mouth).
Our bodies can also absorb it in baths. Epsom Salt is a popular soaking ad that is high in magnesium, is appropriate for bath use, and is available in bulk.

A note on electrolyte and neurotransmitter use –

My husband tried my son’s magnesium exactly twice. Both times were followed by very strange dreams.

I asked my chiropractic neurologist about this. My doctor wasn’t surprised. He said that anytime one changes neurotransmitter or electrolyte levels, one is messing with how the brain works.

Changing the firing pattern of neurons can create either positive results (better sleep, increased focus) or negative results (strange dreams). The trick is to find the right balance of electrolytes and neurotransmitters for each person. Every person will respond differently. If a product causes you to have strange dreams, it may not be right for you.

I would love to hear about your sleep journey. What has helped your ADHD teen or ADHD child? Please share!

This is your journey too.

Liz

 

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