If your child is having trouble sleeping, chances are your whole family is impacted as well. Sleep disturbances can create tension and stress among family members. Many children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) experience sleep issues due to a number of reasons. As part of our sleep series, we will list common causes for sleep problems in children with SPD with suggestions to improve sleep.
Trouble filtering out sounds in the house, such as people talking, birds tweeting, fan blowing, ticking of a clock, etc.
• Noise cancelling headphones or earplugs may be used if your child can tolerate wearing them while sleeping.
• A white noise machine or ceiling/portable fan are great to help cancel out other noises.
Difficulties calming down before bed due to increased arousal level of the central nervous system.
• Children with SPD need vestibular, proprioceptive, and tactile activities throughout the day to help regulate the nervous system.
• Add pressure to arms and legs before bedtime. Squeeze the arms and legs starting from the top to bottom.
• Slow, Gentle, rhythmic linear swinging from a single hung point for at least 15 minutes before bedtime. If a swing is not accessible, wrap your child in a burrito blanket wrap and rock back and forth or have two people hold the ends and swing.
• If your child is in a burrito blanket wrap, add extra pressure by rolling an exercise ball all over child’s body.
• Place a vibrating pillow under the mattress for diffused vibration.
• Set your child’s internal clock by establishing a bedtime routine and staying consistent with bedtime and wake up.
• Make sure your child is not hungry or thirsty before bed, and provide a light snack and water before bed if needed. Nutrition may contribute to sleeping issues as well. It is important to eat plenty of proteins, fruits, and vegetables and limit the preservatives, additives, carbs, sugars, and caffeine (including chocolate).
• Limit the bedroom to sleeping only so your child does not start to associate the bedroom as a place for play or TV.
• If your child benefits from visual stimulation to calm down, try a lava lamp or light-up aquarium as a night-light.
Low tolerance to sensation of pajamas, sheets, blankets, and mattress.
• Use unscented laundry detergent if sensitive to smell, and avoid fabric softener because it leaves residue.
• Kids with SPD may have an aversion to tags on clothes, so it is best to cut off on pajamas. Most kids prefer cotton or fleece pajama sets. Compression clothing or tight fitting pajamas may be beneficial to some children.
• Heavy blankets, quilts, or weighted blanket can help increase weight and pressure. Bedding sets from Beddy’s are design to feel like a fitted sheet, comforter, and sleeping bag all in one.
• The firmness or softness of a mattress may impact your child’s sleep. If possible have your child compare different mattresses in your house (or at the store) to find the best match.
Emotional factors such as anxiety fear of bad dreams, or the feeling of missing out on fun at night.
• Leave a closet light on or night-light, if your child is afraid of the dark.
• Discuss nightmares with your child, and try your best to explain they are not real.
• If possible, have all children go to bed around the same time. If your children are many years apart, make a quiet rule after your child goes to bed so they do not feel left out.
Long afternoon naps may impact their ability to fall asleep at night.
• Limit napping if it takes your child a long time to wake up from one, and has more difficulty falling asleep at night.
What works for one child, might not work for the next. Experiment with different strategies and see which works best for your child and family. Contact Lumiere Children’s Therapy for an individualized sleeping plan with one of our Occupational Therapists.
Heffron, C. (2017, March 16). Sensory-Friendly Tips for Kids Who Have Trouble Sleeping. Retrieved June 20, 2017, from http://theinspiredtreehouse.com/sensory-smart-sleep-tips-kids/
Sweet Dreams. (n.d.). Retrieved June 20, 2017, from https://www.sensorysmarts.com/sweet_dreams.html
Voss, A. (n.d.). Sleep Challenges. Retrieved June 20, 2017, from http://asensorylife.com/sleep-challenges.html