Help Your Special Child Cope Better with These Practical Sleep StrategiesMarch 17, 2016
A post by AngelSense, a GPS & voice monitoring solution designed for children with special needs.
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Establishing healthy sleep habits for your child can be one of the most trying parts of parenthood. So challenging, in fact, that it’s enough to leave even the most strong-willed parent feeling powerless. And that isn’t surprising when you consider that most parents lose out on about 44 days of sleep in the first year of their child’s life. But what about special needs parents? Unfortunately the complexity of a condition like autism doesn’t help matters.
Sleep disorders tend to be more common in children with autism. It’s estimated that anywhere between 40% and an 80% of children with special needs have trouble sleeping. Other studies indicate that 83% of children with autism have some sort of sleep problem. Some of the most common sleep problems among these special children include difficulty falling asleep; restlessness and waking up frequently.
Why sleep is so important for your special needs child
While sleep is essential for the healthy development of all children, it’s particularly important for children with special needs. Over time, a lack of sleep may exacerbate your child’s anxiety, hypersensitivity and inability to cope in social situations. Studies of children with autism have also found a link between sleep deprivation and aggression, hyperactivity, irritability, depression and other behavioral problems.
Getting your special child to sleep through the night will not only impact their happiness and ability to cope, but also the overall wellbeing of your household. While this may seem overwhelming at first, the AngelSense community has put together some practical sleep strategies and tips to help you manage this stage in your child’s development.
1. Establish a healthy nighttime routine
Special needs children respond well to routine which is why it’s important to establish a sleep routine early on. However be aware that your child may become fixated on the routine. In order to avoid this, it’s a good idea to add variety to the this routine. Some nights you’ll start the bedtime routine with a story and other nights with choosing pajamas, for example. The important thing is that your child gets accustomed to a wind down routine which happens at the same time every day.
Some ideas for a healthy nighttime routine include giving your child a bath, reading a story, or a gentle massage. The idea is to focus on calming activities which aren’t overstimulating. Part of this routine should also include well-defined restrictions on TV watching, video games and loud music. At night, be sure the room is free of restrictions. This can be done by putting heavy curtains in the room to block out light; installing thick carpeting and making sure the door doesn’t squeak.
What you can do tonight to establish a nighttime routine:
- Tell your child it’s almost bedtime, and read them a bedtime story
- Restrict sensory stimulating activities, like TV, at least an hour before bed
- Add some calming essential oils to a nebulizer and place it in your child’s room
2. Help your child develop good sleep habits
While it may take some time to establish sleep habits, these can go a long way to ensuring your little one sleeps through the night. Start by teaching your child to appreciate sleep as something unique and distinctive from all other parts of the day. This can be done by explaining to your child that their bed is for sleeping only. It’s important that you do not let them play or eat in their bed.
Other important sleep habits include making sure your child wakes up and goes to sleep at the same time everyday; avoids long naps during the day and doesn’t go to bed hungry. It’s also a good idea to make sure that your special child avoids excessive liquids at night.
What you can do tonight to develop good sleep habits:
- Monitor how much your child drinks at dinner
- Change your child’s linen and explain that this is a special space for sleeping only
- Decide on a time that will be your child’s bedtime from now on
3. Establish positive sleep routines with a faded bedtime
While not specific to special needs children, faded bedtime is a sleep strategy that may be useful for your child. It will come in handy if your child tends to fall asleep late at night. To implement this, you need to determine a bedtime that your child will fall asleep within a few minutes of lying down.
Once your child is accustomed to falling asleep at that time, bedtime is made earlier by 30 minutes. You continue this process until your little one is comfortable going to sleep at a reasonable hour. This can be an effective strategy, but in order for it to work you have to ensure your child remains awake throughout the day regardless of how tired your child gets.
What you can do tonight to establish positive sleep routines:
- Decide on a time you know your child will fall asleep without too much fuss
- Make sure your child is calm and ready for sleep
- Create a chart which you can use for tracking your child’s progress
4. Clean up your child’s diet
The food your child eats can have a big role in how easy it is to fall asleep. As far as possible, avoid giving your child any stimulants like sugar or caffeine before bed. Speak to your doctor or holistic health practitioner about other foods to include or avoid.
What you can do tonight to clean up your child’s diet:
- Try to introduce alternatives to white sugar
- Avoid giving your child food with caffeine before bed
- Make sure your child drinks enough water throughout the day
How do you get your special child to sleep through the night? Share your tips and sleep strategies with us in the comments below.
AngelSense is committed to creating a safer world for special needs children. Our cutting-edge GPS tracking and monitoring solution was designed to give parents the peace of mind that their children are safe at all times. You deserve peace of mind too. Join AngelSense Today.