The start of every successful day at school begins with a good night’s rest. But parents know that, for children with special needs, this can be a bit of an obstacle depending on the day. Difficulty falling to sleep — or falling back to sleep in the middle of the night — can compromise a student’s performance and lead to weight gain, irritability, and more. If your child is having a hard time sleeping, don’t be discouraged: it is rather common for children with autism and special needs.
We want you and your children to be as healthy and refreshed as possible. So, to help parents and their studious children engender quality habits, we’ve put together a brief list of tips to ensure our students come to class rested, relaxed, and alert.
1 Establish a consistent and cozy environment
Parents of children with special needs know how beneficial a weighted blanket can be. Find one your child responds to; these help the brain release neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine to improve mood and cause relaxation. Shop for some potential blankets here!
2 Eat earlier on
Avoid sugary foods right before bedtime, and try establishing your mealtime to be at least two hours before bedtime. Make this a habit so your child can adjust to and anticipate when they will likely fall asleep.
3 Look into potential GI issues
Children with autism can sometimes suffer from gastrointestinal issues. If your child is experiencing this, it may be affecting their sleep. Talk to your doctor as each case is unique; it may involve small changes, like dietary adjustments, or slightly larger ones, like supplements.
4 Try playing soothing sounds
Calming music or audiobooks may lull your child to sleep. For potential playlists, YouTube already has a channel with plenty of options and almost 5,000 subscribers. Follow here!
5 Take detailed notes
Keeping a journal can be useful if further consultation is needed. Record a log of sleeping irregularity so you (and a medical professional, need be) can track your child’s patterns and hopefully find easy solutions to prompt better sleeping habits.
6 Maintain consistency
As The Parents Zone says, “consistency and predictability make children feel secure.” Children with autism or special needs tend to value schedules, so try and stick to one so your child can anticipate when bedtime is approaching.
7 Toe the coddling line
It can be hard to not consistently comfort your child when they wake up, but giving them some personal space can help. Don’t let them become overly dependent on sleeping in your room, and stick to tested methods to get them to fall back to sleep — back massaging, belly rubbing — before returning to your own bed.
8 Establish a bedtime routine
Leading organization Autism Speaks says to create “predictability” before bedtime: repeat an activity so your child knows sleep is coming. Try reading a book, saying a prayer, or listening to soft music. Avoid stimuli like cell phones or TV.
9 Stay active during the day
Exercising or even going on light strolls in the early evening can tire your child out just enough so that they both stay fit and fall asleep more easily as they’ll be in need of some rest.
10 Nap strategically, if needed
Naps are useful for younger children, but for those over age 10 more naps may interfere with nighttime sleep. If your child needs to nap, find an activity to do afterward to guarantee they’ll need some more rest later on.