If your child has difficulty sleeping, falling asleep, or getting a good night’s rest, she may have a sleep disorder. Most articles about sleep disorders and Sensory Processing Disorders center around children on the Autism Spectrum, or those experiencing ADHD, and other developmental disabilities. This article will offer suggestions for parents to consider in helping their child to sleep.
What is a sleep disorder?
Here is a short list of sleep issues that may signify a sleep disorder.
- Problems related to sleep onset and maintenance
- Irregular sleep-wake patterns
- Long sleep latencies (how long it takes to fall asleep)
- Night terrors
- Irregular sleep patterns
- Generally poor sleep
- Early and night waking
- Poor sleep routines
- Shortened night sleep
- Alternations in sleep onset and wake times
Questions to answer when assessing a sleep disorder
- Are there any medical concerns that may influence sleep?
- How many hours does the child sleep?
- How many times does the child wake each night?
- How long, on average, is the child awake?
- Why do you think the child wakes up?
- What is the child’s temperament when he/she wakes?
- Does the child nap? If so, how many and how long?
- Does the child sleep with any items?
- What is the bedroom environment like?
- What is the current bedtime routine?
- What motivates the child?
- What activities or items calm the child?
- What is the child’s primary mode of communication?
Sensory processing issues that may affect sleep
If your child displays other symptoms relating to sensory processing disorders, it might be beneficial to have him evaluated by an occupational therapist. Here is a checklist of possible behavioral symptoms that may indicate a sensory processing disorder.
- Address sensory problems associated with high arousal.
- vestibular under reactivity-(think twirling and swinging)
- Tactile Defensiveness or Over Responsiveness
- noise sensitivity
- Schedule a sensory diet with intense vestibular activity in the afternoon and avoid rough house and intense movement experiences after dinner. In the evening you can relax and calm your child with deep pressure activities.
For Part 2
Suggestions for promoting healthy sleep hygiene, and alternative approaches to addressing sleep disorders.
- Sleep Difficulties and Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Guide for Parents and Professionals, by Kenneth J. Aitken
- Baby Sleep Music 7 Lullaby Bedtime Music for Baby Sleep YouTube
- Book: AUTISM Sleeps: Sensory Strategies to Help Restless Minds Sleep!
- Pediatric Disorders of Regulation in Affect and Behavior: A Therapist’s Guide to Assessment and Treatment (Practical Resources for the Mental Health Professional) by Georgia A. DeGangi
- Melatonin for insomnia in children with autism spectrum disorders.
- Sleep problems in autism spectrum disorders: prevalence, nature, & possible biopsychosocial aetiologies
- Characterizing sleep disorders in autism spectrum disorder
- Sleep Quality and Sleep Hygiene in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Research Brief: Sensory Responsiveness and Problem Sleep Behaviors in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders, Special Interest Quarterly-Sensory Integration-Vol 34. No. 1, March 2011. Published by The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. –Stacey Reynolds, PhD, OTR/L, and Shelly J. Lane, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA