Lullaby and Goodnight (part 1)

baby sleeping with stuffed animal

baby sleeping with stuffed animal

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)
  • Nightmares
  • 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?

If you consult your pediatrician about your child’s sleep issues, you might want to prepare a sleep diary or sleep chart to bring to the evaluation.

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.



About Emily Lauren

Jenny Clark, OTR/L, BCP (AOTA Board Certification in Pediatrics), is a licensed pediatric occupational therapist with over 22 years experience working as a school-based occupational therapist, independent contractor for early intervention services, private practitioner, speaker, consultant, author, and inventor. Jenny currently owns a pediatric therapy private practice, Jenny’s Kids, Inc. Jenny Clark Jenny is the author of the best-selling book on sensory processing entitled Learn to Move, Move to Learn: Sensorimotor Early Childhood Activity Themes(AAPC 2004), (Starter Kit available) More recently Ms Clark has written a sequel Learn to Move, Moving Up! Sensorimotor Elementary School Activity Themes (AAPC 2009). In addition, she has published two DVD’s Learn to Move: Dinosaurs (AAPC 2005), a companion to her first book, and Sensory Processing Disorder Kit: Simulations and Solutions for Parents, Teachers, and Therapists (AAPC 2006), which won the 2007 media in excellence video award from Autism Society of America. Jenny’s newest publication is a music CD, Sing, Move, Learn (AAPC 2010), which accompanies the songs in her first book. Ms. Clark is a contributing author for the book Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Handbook for Parents and Professionals (Greenwood Publishing Group 2007), as well as a chapter author for Autism Spectrum Disorders: Foundations, Characteristics, and Effective Strategies. (Pearson Publishing 2011 by Boutot & Myles). Jenny is the inventor of the Patent-Pending “Weigh” Cool Bracelet. Jenny has spoken both nationally and internationally on a variety of topics, including sensory integration/processing. She received her bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy and graduated with distinction from the University of Kansas.
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