Sleepless ADHD/ASD Kid Taking Stimulants? A Drug-Free Solution


This happens all the time; the drug that is supposed to be metabolized doing the day can still disrupt sleep at night.  One of my clients is begging his father to make his brain “turn off” so he can sleep at 11:30PM!  It only has a half-life of 12 hours folks.  It is still in that brain and body, making it impossible to sleep unless exhausted.  And losing sleep is a great way to increase inattention and irritability.  What do prescribers do?  They add an anti-anxiety drug.  Only 7 years old, and already living the polypharmacy life like Grandma!!


Turns out another side effect of his medication is that he has no appetite.  He isn’t gaining any weight, and was pretty slim before.  This is going badly just as they are seeing some behavioral improvement.  It is the rest of his life that is cratering.  The family isn’t willing to stop the meds, and perhaps they don’t have to.

Why does appetite affect sleep?  Because the brain will not allow sleep if it thinks you haven’t consumed enough.  It wants you to get up and forage, or go catch and kill a Mastodon for dinner.  Working with anorexics and the frail elderly would have taught prescribers this.  Oh wait.  They don’t treat them.  They specialize in ADHD or ASD.




I suggested that they add calories to their meals without adding volume.  When a kid has no appetite, versus picky eating or ARFID of any other type, they don’t want any food.  But the food they eat can be created to add nutritious calories.  Think chickpea flour in a bread or cookie, or lentils and quinoa in a spaghetti sauce.  There are Mac and Cheese recipes that have added punch but taste as good as the less-nutritious versions.


“Deceptively Delicious” and “The Sneaky Chef” are 2 of the most popular recipe books, but there are commercially available foods that make this easy.  Some of them have names with “super” or “power” in them that appeal to some kids.  One of the most common strategies is to slowly add in a new food to an existing favorite food.  The taste will be so slightly different that no one will perceive it.  The other is to have an older sibling or cousin exclaim the virtues of the new food.  Some kids will eat ground grasshoppers if their older brother deems them perfect foods.


Learn more about ADHD and bedwetting here:  The Two Causes of Bedwetting Your Pediatrician Might Not be Mentioning


Read more about kids and sleep here: Screens, Sleep, and the Special Needs Child and Sugar Might Not be the Only Villain Stealing Your Kid’s Sleep !  .



By Cathy Collyer

I am a licensed occupational therapist, licensed massage therapist, and certified CBT-i sleep coach in private practice in the NYC area. I have over 25 years of professional experience in adult and pediatric treatment. It has been a joy to help people of all ages improve their ability to grow and thrive! Occupational therapists are focused on enhancing a client's functioning in everyday life. We are practical healthcare providers, interested in teaching, adapting actions and environments, and building a client's useful skills for living their best life, regardless of their challenges. I am the author of five books, including "Staying In The Room: Managing Medical And Dental Care When You Have DID" and "The Practical Guide To Toilet Training the Autistic Child". I lecture on many subjects, including sleep, trauma, and development. Contact me to learn more about how I can help you achieve YOUR goals!

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