Sensory Tricks: Sleep routines to help troubled sleepers
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Bedtime. It’s crazy how one thing can bring insanity and salvation all rolled into one. As parents, sometimes the only minute we get to breathe is that sigh of relief we let out when we know our kids are finally asleep. But man did we have to work for that breath. With four kids, bedtime at my house feels like trying to march up a mountain dragging a one-ton weight with wheels that only roll downhill. The oldest is sneaking candy after she’s already brushed her teeth. The next one down is making a mile-high pile of books for story-time. My toddler is likely to be found with a canister of hot chocolate powder or some other item equally nightmarish to clean up and using it as confetti while the baby cries for one last bottle before bed. And all my kids are relatively good sleepers.
For some families the frustration is deeper. For kids with a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), bedtime can be a whole different kind of nightmare. Things that seem like minor irritations to most people can keep sleep out of reach for SPD kids. Chiming clocks, washers and dryers, and people talking in the other room can disrupt those who struggle blocking out background noise. Those who are tactilely sensitive may complain about the tags on their pajamas, the texture of their bedding or the temperature of their room. And even when all those other conditions are met, they face the hurdle of calming their restless bodies and the slightest addition of stress can make that task seem near impossible.
For any child, sleep is crucial for success in school. But SPD kids are especially in need of the focus and assistance that comes from a good night of rest. So what can we do to help them overcome these obstacles?
Separate Them from Siblings
Sensory kids need their sleep; conditions stylized to their needs as much as possible, so having other children in the room whose needs or comfort might interfere with their own can create hurdles. Not to mention the added noises and distractions that come from kids just being kids. This is a great option to provide a quiet and peaceful atmosphere to help your child sleep.
Noise-canceling headphones or earplugs
Obviously, it’s not always possible to give each child their own room so noise canceling headphones or earplugs are a great alternative. These are also good for blocking out sounds that you and I don’t even notice and can do little to eliminate such as the hum of the freeway or passing traffic, distant trains, loud neighbors or even crickets.
All these overwhelming sensations can build up a lot of tension in your child’s muscles. Weighted blankets provide a sense of safety and security that encourage your child to relax which is exactly what they need to help them fall asleep and stay that way.
Bedtime routines are helpful for all kids, but are especially so for sensory kids. Routines help their mind and body recognize that it’s time to start winding down and preparing to sleep. These routines also become helpful when they face changes such as traveling. Traveling can be difficult, but if you can bring along part of the routine like teeth brushing followed by a story, then they still have a sense of familiarity to help them cope.
Comfortable Clothes and Bedding
As I mentioned, the texture of clothes and bedding can be a serious irritation. If they itch, your child may face lying in bed all night focused on their discomfort instead of sleeping. Most sensory kids prefer soft textures, but the best way is usually to work with your child in picking out fabrics that are comfortable to them. This helps avoid meltdowns in case you guessed wrong.
SENSORY PROCESSING: My child is sensitive to tags, sounds, light, textures
Sensory Activities Before Bed
It’s so tempting to let them watch TV or play video games before bed. It’s gets them to sit in one place, right? Shouldn’t that give sleepiness a chance to catch up to them? Many times, it has the opposite effect. It can innervate and agitate them causing irritability and even anxiety. Encouraging them to play with sensory toys like tactile balls, chewable toys or even light physical activity can help even out their system. Soft music is also good for those with auditory sensitivities.
SENSORY ACTIVITIES: 5 Great Activities with a Sensory Crash Pad
Pillow Cave or Burrito
This comes back to safety and security. On warm nights, a weighted blanket may be too hot. Building a cave or alcove out of pillows or bundling them snugly with a lighter blanket are good substitutes. The burrito can also be done as more of a snuggling activity before bedtime to let their muscles relax without keeping them bound up all night.
It can be hard to find the right combinations and conditions to help your Sensory Kid find rest, but don’t give up, that combo is out there. And you can try to have fun finding it too. Anything to relieve the pressure and stress is a step in the right direction.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs
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