sleep tips for kids with special needs

One thing that is often a concern with our sensory kids, and kids on the spectrum, is sleeping patterns. They just don’t sleep! Or, they wake up in the middle of the night. These two issues are very common. 

Why your child may have trouble falling asleep:

Sleep can be impacted by many things. We know if you have sensory integration issues sleep can be a challenge. This is because the ability to self-calm, fall asleep, and modulate down to a point where you’re going to want to go to sleep are all very sensory driven. If you’re hyper and can’t calm down, you’re going to have a very difficult time going to sleep. 

Many times our kids with ADHD go like Roger Rabbit all day long, and then they literally sit down and fall asleep. They go from very high to very low, but there’s no modulation process between the two extremes. We work hard to teach this modulating process. We work on modulating up when it’s appropriate, getting to a “just right” point, and then down so that we can sleep. 

How to calm your child to prepare for bedtime:

Some of our parents have learned to do certain activities before bed that are calming, so that their child is ready to go to sleep. Sometimes reading a book, or using a weighted blanket can work well (this is called proprioception). Maybe having trouble falling asleep is related to something they eat. Some parents find certain rituals at night that help their child wind down and fall asleep.

What causes children to wake up in the middle of the night:

But then we also have kiddos who wake up in the middle of the night. Often night waking is due to something like changes in temperature, or maybe the blanket has fallen off. But many of our children have biomedical issues. If these issues are related to the food they’re eating, then there may be things going on in their bodies that will cause them to wake and become alert.

So it’s really important to report these things to your therapist, and bring these up as big issues so your therapist can help solve the problem. Our therapists have lots of ideas to help. One thing we love to hear, and we hear it a lot, is something like this: “Once my child had been in OT for a few months I knew he was getting his sensory needs met, because he suddenly started to sleep through the night!”

We hope that’s you, and we hope to see you soon! 

Sharing is caring!