Getting a good night’s sleep is beneficial for the whole family. When children sleep better, parents often sleep better, and then everyone wakes up feeling rested and energized. However, when you have a child with special needs, bedtime can be a struggle. Children with autism in particular may have trouble falling or staying asleep. Some research shows this may be due to variations in melatonin levels or circadian rhythms, issues with anxiety, or increased sensitivity to light or sound.
When children don’t get enough sleep – or quality sleep – it can take a toll on their energy, focus, behavior, and mood during the day. This can make dealing with the normal ups and downs of special needs even more difficult. However, there are some ways that you can help to promote better sleep at night.
Wind down before bed. Turn off the television and put away electronics at least an hour before bedtime as these devices can be very stimulating. Encourage your child to read a book, draw, write, or play with quiet, less stimulating toys for a while before bed to relax and calm their body and mind.
Establish a bedtime routine. For children, routine is a good thing. They know what to expect and can follow the pattern. Decide how to prepare your child for bed each night and stick to it. Maybe this means taking a warm bath, putting on pajamas, listening to a story, then turning out the lights. Find what works for you, but keep it consistent.
Try gentle touch or sound. For some kids, having their back rubbed can help them to feel calmer and fall asleep. This can be especially helpful for those children that are sensory seeking or like deep pressure. Some children may also do well with white noise or instrumental music playing softly in the background. This can be calming but also cut down on the distraction of other noises around the home or outside.
Create a comfortable environment. Make sure your child’s pajamas are comfortable and not causing sensory issues. Keep the room at a cooler temperature and block out as much light and sound as possible. Children with autism may be light sleepers and stir at distractions. Allowing them to sleep in a sleeping bag can be helpful because it provides gentle pressure and warmth in a confined space. This can be calming.
Find what works best for your child because every child is different. Supporting them in achieving more quality sleep can have a positive impact on their behavior, mood, and daily function. Getting them involved in various therapies at PediaPlex can help as well to address underlying issues and promote more consistent routine and behavior. Trouble sleeping is just one of the challenges that can come with autism or other special needs, but PediaPlex can help your family handle these issues and more.
Whether your child is having trouble with sleep or in school, PediaPlex offers a variety of services for treating autism and other conditions. Call today to learn more.