7 sleep tips for kids with special needs

Why a Bedtime Routine is So Important

Are your children getting enough sleep at night? Quality sleep is so important for children, including those kiddos with special needs. Sleeping habits can have an impact on all aspects of a child’s life, from affecting their ability to pay attention and learn to their mood and behavior. Parents of special needs children in particular may find it challenging to get their kids to go to sleep at night and to stay asleep, however. If you’ve found that your child is struggling to get a good night’s sleep, here are some tips to help you establish a bedtime routine so your child (and you!) can catch some z’s.

Be predictable! A good bedtime routine is all about predictability. For many children, keeping the bedtime routine the same each night helps to create a pattern that they can rely on, which lets them know that bedtime is coming. Brush teeth, put on jammies, read a book, say prayers, sing a song – whatever you choose to do, try to do the same things each night and in the same order. Their brains and bodies will begin to associate the things you do each night with sleepy time, helping them to relax and prepare for bedtime.

Timing is everything. Begin your routine about thirty minutes prior to your child’s actual bedtime. That way, that gives you enough time to get through all the steps of the bedtime routine calmly and smoothly without you or your child feeling rushed.

Create a sleepy environment. A nice, calm, sleep-encouraging environment at bedtime is crucial but will likely look different for each child. While some children might prefer dim lighting, a quiet, cold room, and comfy jammies, another child may like a colorful nightlight, a low-volume white noise machine, a warmer room with no blankets. You know your child best, of course. Just keep in mind any sensory needs; for example, some children may dislike the way pajamas feel on their skin, and another may be distracted by bright streetlights outside their window. Once you figure out what works best for your child, repeat it every night to create that routine.

Have a snack! While most experts will advise against eating a heavy meal too close to bedtime as well as avoiding sugary or caffeinated snacks or beverages, allowing your child to have a light, healthy snack shortly before they go to bed can help to keep their tummies full until morning.

Limit screen time. If your child is a big fan of watching shows on TV or playing games on their tablet, try to plan to have screen time stop for the evening at least 30 minutes before you begin the bedtime routine. The stimulation and the bright lights from the screens can hamper the bedtime process. Pro tip: some tablets and smart devices can now be set to turn themselves off at a certain time each night, keeping you from having to be the “bad guy”.

Keep a sleep journal. If your child frequently struggles to fall asleep or stay asleep, try keeping a journal to see if you can identify any patterns to their sleep difficulties. This can help you figure out what works and what doesn’t for your child.

Consider supplements. Sleep supplements such as Melatonin or Valerian are generally considered to be a safe and effective way of supporting sleep in children, but of course, always consult with your child’s pediatrician before beginning any new medication, even supplements or herbal remedies.

We hope this is helpful information for you. Try out some of these tips and let us know how it goes. Remember, sleep isn’t just important for your child, it’s important for you, too. Good sleep for your kiddos means a better night’s sleep for you as well. You need to take care of yourself in order to take care of them!

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