Fruit and supplement bottles against a grey-blue background.

Nutrition, exercise, sleep: what natural treatments help children with ADHD?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends treating ADHD in children with medication and behavioral therapy, but many families are studying and trying natural treatments as well.

During a recent ADDitude webinar titled “Lifestyle Changes with the Biggest Impact on Children with ADHD”, we received hundreds of questions from parents interested in getting the most out of sleep, nutrition, exercise and mindfulness to manage their children’s ADHD. Here, ADDitude editors answer some of your most common questions and provide links to related resources.

Q1: How can I help my child focus long enough to adopt mindfulness techniques?

Getting children with ADHD to slow down and sit quietly in the lotus position is neither easy nor necessary for effective mindfulness practice. A calm and steady meditation routine doesn’t need to happen in silence or standing still. Consider conscious “SEAT,” which includes quick thinking about immediate sensations, emotions, actions, and thoughts. The “quiet sigh” is a slow exhale that can be used on the verge of a meltdown and as an alternative to more demanding deep breathing exercises. Once you find an activity that appeals to your child’s ADHD brain, the next step is to encourage consistent practice.

Next steps:

Q2: Do you have any suggestions for a child with ADHD who has trouble falling asleep?

Losing just one hour of sleep per night can affect a child’s academic performance, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. To trick the ADHD brain into sleep mode, try to maintain the same bedtime for your child each night. Give them at least an hour to get ready for bed without access to electronics. Increased physical activity during the day can help tire both mind and body, but it’s best to complete physical activity at least three hours before the lights go out. Some parents have found success with weighted blankets, white noise machines, and essential oils.

Next steps:

Q3: Is long-term use of melatonin safe? My 11 year old can’t “turn off his brain” without it.

Melatonin is considered healthy, safe, and effective for most children and adults in small, short-term doses. Studies have not shown a link with addiction, but data is lacking on the safety of taking melatonin long-term. Talk to your doctor or pediatrician about potential side effects and determine the best dosage for your child.

Q4: My 13 year old son is obsessed with sugar. Is this normal with ADHD, and do we help it if we limit its sugar intake?

ADHD brains typically lack dopamine. So it’s no surprise that kids with ADHD crave the dopamine rush that sugar provides. Although research is ongoing, some studies suggest that more sugar can lead to increased hyperactivity and impulsivity. To test the effect of sugar on your child’s behavior, try the sugar test. Reduce their consumption as much as possible for 10 days. On day 11, introduce a sugary snack or drink and see if it impacts his energy and focus.

Next steps:

Q5: How can I implement the Nourished Heart approach when my 2nd child finds it condescending? I commend him for the little things he regularly fails to do.

If your child rejects attempts at the nurtured heart approach to positive parenting, don’t be discouraged just yet. Continue to ignore negative behavior and vigorously reward progress, and your efforts should eventually pay off. However, there is no single strategy when it comes to improving behavior. Dr. Robert Brooks suggests using “islands of skill” and contributing activities that incorporate a child’s strengths and interests. You can also consider Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, Daily Special Time, or this list of reader suggestions.

Next steps:

Q6: Are there natural ways to support children with both ADHD and anxiety?

Talk to your child’s pediatrician or a qualified doctor about inositol and theanine supplements, which are known to have calming effects on the brain. Inositol is part of the B vitamin complex and theanine is an amino acid found in green tea. Many essential oils, such as lavender and frankincense, are commonly used for relaxation. Consider these in addition to other forms of support such as cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, and spending time in nature.

Next steps:

The content of this article was based on questions submitted by live attendees during the ADDitude ADHD Experts webinar titled “Lifestyle Changes with the Biggest Impact on Children with ADHD”. [Video Replay & Podcast #414] with Sandy Newmark, MD, which aired live on August 4, 2022.

Add support
Thanks for reading ADDitude. To support our mission to provide ADHD education and support, please consider subscribing. Your readership and support help make our content and reach possible. Thanks.

#Nutrition #exercise #sleep #natural #treatments #children #ADHD

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *