Sleep is an important activity that helps promote self-regulation. When you don't get a good night's sleep, it can leave you feeling disorganized, irritable, inattentive and a little more dysregulated the following day. Add on a sensory processing disorder, which is quite common in many kids and often affects sleep, and this can lead to sleep deprivation.
Here are some sleep tips for children with sensory processing needs.
1. Deep Pressure Therapy
Deep touch therapy or deep pressure therapy are things you can use to apply pressure on your child's body to help produce melatonin and increase serotonin production. Activities known to help with this involve proprioceptive sense, including firm massage and weighted blankets. These make great additions to your child's regular sleep routine.
2. Separate them from Siblings
A pediatric occupational therapist will tell you sensory children require their sleep. You need to ensure their room provides a safe and comfortable environment for them. When you have them share their room with other kids, it could interfere with this comfortable and sense of security with the distractions and noise from kids just being kids. By letting them sleep in their own bedroom, you are helping to provide a peaceful, quiet atmosphere to help your sensory child sleep better.
3. Weighted Blanket
Overwhelming sensations can cause tension buildup in your child's muscles. A weighted blanked provides a sense of security and safety that promotes relaxation in your child helping them to fall asleep and stay asleep.
4. Noise-Canceling Headphones
Auditory sensitivity can affect a sensory child's sleep, making it harder for them to fall asleep when there's noise (i.e. you watching TV) in the room next door. A simple solution is to let them wear a pair of noise-canceling headphones to help them fall asleep quicker.
5. Good Nutrition
Good nutrition throughout the day can impact your child's ability to sleep at night significantly. While sensory kids tend to be picky about what they eat, there are some factors you should bear in mind:
- Limit refined sugar
- No dairy
- Organic fruits and vegetables
- No additives, preservatives and dyes
No caffeine, of course. And, keep in mind hot chocolate and other types of chocolate can contain caffeine.
For kids with sensory processing disorder, sleep problems can compound difficulties with self-regulation even further. The best thing you can do in addition to the tips above is to establish a consistent bedtime routine that supports their sensory needs.