Strategies to help your special needs kids sleep better
Sleep disorder is quite common in special needs children. Right from the time they’re born, children get used to a certain sleep cycle, when parents gradually reduce their number of daytime naps. This process of getting accustomed to a sleep cycle may not happen with all children. Between 40-80% of children with ASD have difficulty in sleeping.
Reasons for Sleep Disorder
Sleep disorders can often lead to other problems such as depression, hyperactivity, irritability, poor learning, or behavioral problems. Here are a few possible reasons why children with special needs face sleep problems:
- Inability to understand Social Cues
Kids with ASD find it hard to understand certain cues. For example, they may not understand why their parents are getting ready for bedtime. They may be confused about the need to transition from one activity to the next. It gets difficult for special needs children to interpret and understand their surroundings.
- Melatonin Levels
Melatonin is the hormone that is responsible for sleep cycles. In order for melatonin to form, the human body needs tryptophan – an amino acid. If tryptophan is found in either too high or too low levels, it can affect sleep routine. In children with special needs, sleep disorders may occur when melatonin is not released at the right time.
- Sensitivity to external Stimuli
Children with ASD may be sensitive to outside stimuli. Even the slightest disturbances could awaken them. Parents should be careful to not speak in loud voices or open the bedroom door when their child is sleeping.
Strategies to help Special needs kids sleep better
These are some of the things that you can do to help your special needs child sleep better:
- Create the right sleep environment
Children with special needs might have sensory issues. Ensure that the room in which they sleep is dark and the right temperature as per your child’s needs. Block light with curtains and make sure the environment is calm.
- Create a Bedtime routine
Start off by setting a bedtime routine with your child. Plan a few activities such as narrating stories, giving them a nice, warm bath to soothe their body, and put them to bed at the same time every day. For added effect, turn on soft music or read a book with your child, slowly massage their body and prepare them for sleep.
- Avoid Sensory Distractions
Children with special needs are sensitive to outside stimuli. Try to avoid making any sounds or turning on the lights in the room when your child is sleeping. Also, shut down computers, tablets, phones, etc. and turn off the television at least two hours before bedtime.
Trying some of these strategies may help your special needs child sleep better and remain calmer through the day.