Children with disabilities can often experience difficulty sleeping, which can certainly take its toll on both you and them.
A lack of sleep can impact mood and behaviour and can even affect your health. So, ensuring both you and your child get the rest you require is essential. To help you, here are some useful tips for getting special needs children to sleep at night.
1. Make their bed cosy and secure
Many children with disabilities toss and turn at night, which can cause their bedding to fall off. When this happens, they may be unable to rest comfortably and fall asleep. To help your child sleep at night, try choosing a weighty doona and tucking it in tight. Doing so will help ensure your child feels warm and secure and that their bedding doesn’t come off. You can also try placing extra cushions around your child to give them support and something to hug for security. Alternatively, for young children, you can consider a sleeping sack.
2. Use scent
Scent can be a powerful tool for helping children get to sleep at night. Not only can certain smells make them feel relaxed but using the same fragrance can help create a sense of comfort and routine. This can also be useful for getting your child to sleep in a different setting, such as respite care. For instance, if your child associates the scent of lavender with their room at bedtime, they’ll feel more comfortable to sleep somewhere else that also smells of lavender.
3. Make night-time clean-ups quick
Children with special needs can often wet the bed at night. When this happens, it can not only wake them but also severely disrupt their sleep while you change their bedding, clean their mattress and tidy up. To help your child get back to sleep in their own bed quicker, you need to ensure you can deal with any accidents quickly and easily. To do so, try having fresh sheets and pyjamas on hand. Also, consider investing in a waterproof mattress. Unlike standard mattresses, waterproof options can be wiped clean with no need to scrub, wash or dry. As such, they can save a lot of time during clean-ups. Alternatively, consider a waterproof mattress protector or have a cleaning kit ready to go.
4. Try an audiobook
When children have trouble sleeping at night, the sound of someone reading them a story can help them blissfully drift off. However, this can present problems for parents who have to stay up late to read to their children. To help both you and your child get the rest you need, try playing an audiobook in their room. Alternatively, you can try recording yourself reading aloud and playing that. The sound of your voice will be particularly soothing to your child.
5. Keep their room a safe and happy place
Making your child feel safe and comfortable in their bedroom is vital for good sleep. To do so, make sure you don’t use their room as a place for punishment. Also, you may want to try adding something soothing to keep their attention until they fall asleep, such as glow-in-the-dark stickers on the roof.
If your child tends to wake up in the night, consider placing bells or alarms in their room to wake you when needed. You can use one on their door if they tend to wander at night or place one beside their bed to allow them to call you for help.
6. Implement a bedtime routine
A bedtime routine can be useful for all children, including those with special needs. After all, having a relaxing and regular way to transition from wakefulness to sleep can help kids feel good about going to bed. While this routine should take place at a set time, what it includes can be specific to your child. For instance, it could be a relaxing bath, a gentle massage and story. Or, it could be as simple as limiting sports activities and heavy eating for the two hours before sleep.
7. Speak to a doctor
If your child is having severe sleep issues, it’s important to speak with their doctor. Rest is essential for the development of children and should be taken seriously. Their doctor will be able to provide you with helpful advice and information on the subject. They may suggest over-the-counter or prescription medicines if needed. They can also help you address gastrointestinal issues, which can often cause sleep disturbances for special needs kids.