- Posted by spectrum
- On November 27, 2017
Strategies to Improve Sleep in Children
Sleep problems are very common in children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and can result in daytime sleepiness, learning problems and behavioural issues such as hyperactivity, inattentiveness and aggression. The most common sleep problems in children diagnosed with ASD are difficulty falling asleep and repeated awakenings during the night. Fortunately, there are several ways parents can improve a child’s sleep.
Why is Sleep so Important?
• To reset
• To stay motivated
• To learn
• To increase our stress threshold
• To improve our memory and concentration
• To remain sociable and optimistic
• To engage in creative thought
What is the Impact of Sleep Problems for Children on the Spectrum?
• Stress and parental sleep deprivation
• Behavioural issues, hyperactivity and inattention
• Increased repetitive behaviour and instance on sameness
Optimal Sleep Times
Throughout our lifetimes, our optimal sleep time will change.
• For a Newborn, 14-17 hours sleep is average, however sleeping between 11 and 19 hours may be appropriate.
• For infants, 12-15 hours sleep is average, however 10-18 hours sleep may be appropriate.
• For toddlers, 11-14 hours sleep is average, however 9-16 hours sleep may be appropriate.
• For pre-schoolers, 10-13 hours sleep is average, however 8-14 hours sleep may be appropriate.
• For school age children, 9-11 hours sleep is average, however 7-12 hours sleep may be appropriate.
• For teens, 8-10 hours sleep is average, however 7-11 hours sleep may be appropriate.
• For young adults, 7-9 hours sleep is average, however 6-11 hours sleep may be appropriate.
Psychological Treatment for Sleeping Difficulties
Before selecting a sleep, program consider the following
• Select ideas that work well within your family’s lifestyle
• Begin to implement the plan when you have the time and energy to see if it will work
• Try on small change, and then slowly incorporate other changes
• Be patient, it can take upward of two weeks of persistence to see a change
Provide a comfortable sleep setting
• Create a safe and quiet sleep setting for your child
• Consider the temperature, noise and light
• For children with ASD if it hard for them to switch off to sensory experiences
• If the room is too dark try adding a night lift
• Consider heavier curtains if there is a street light or for daylight savings
• Consider adding white noise such as a ceiling fan, some children find this soothing
• Other environmental considerations include textures and weight of bedsheets, including weighted blankets.
Establish a Regular Bedtime Routine
• Establish habits that are short, predictable and expected
• The routine should include relaxing activities
• Avoid screen time 30 minutes before bed
• Avoid activities like running, jumping or rough play 30 minutes before bed
• Start the routine 15 to 30 minutes before the set bedtime, shorter time for younger children, this will increase as the child grows
• Complete the routine in the child’ room, where possible
• Use a visual schedule or “to do list” if necessary
Determine what activities are stimulating and which are not, for example a bath may be stimulating to some but not others. Screen time increases cognitive activity and slows release of melatonin.
This entire routine should take place in your child’s bedroom. Even if your child is not ready to sleep alone right away, it will be easier if your child is used to getting ready for bed in their own bedroom, rather than in your bedroom.
Tips to Keep a Regular Schedule
• Choose a bedtime… and keep to it!!!
• Time it right! Most children get a second wind in the hour before bedtime, and may have trouble falling asleep it they go to bed too early. If it takes your child more than an hour to fall asleep put it back by 30minutes to 1 hour to help them sleep
• Adjust bed time as they get older – as children get older bedtime will get later. They will want to sleep later and wake up later. Try not to let children sleep one hour more than their normal wake up time on weekends as it can disrupt their sleeping patterns.
• For younger children that have a nap keep nap time at the same time each day. Wake your child by 4pm. For older children avoid napping unless they are sick
• Breakfast same time all week. Avoid heavy meals before bed but consider a light snack
• Exposure to the sun can help set a routine. Open the curtains, but at night make sure there is minimal lighting