For children with sensory issues, sleeping can be a routine struggle for both the children and their parents. If a child experiences sensory issues, this means that their brain has difficulty processing and organizing input from their senses. This may appear as either hypersensitivity (highly sensitive) or hyposensitivity (atypical lack of sensitivity) to sensory information. In children with hypersensitivity to sensory information, issues with sleep may be common.
How can pediatric occupational therapy help sleep issues?
If a child has sensory issues or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), occupational therapy can be extremely helpful in building skills needed to participate in everyday activities or “occupations.” If sensory issues are impeding sleep, an occupational therapist might help a child to resolve their sensory issues through therapeutic tactics.
Why do children with sensory issues experience issues with sleep?
Children with autism or sensory processing disorder (SPD) often have difficulties sleeping due to their sensitivity to sensory information. This could mean that a seemingly small noise or an uncomfortable texture of sheets could disturb the sleep of a child with sensory issues. When you consider all of the different sensitivities that these kiddos experience, it is no wonder that falling and staying asleep can be a major challenge each night.
5 tips for helping children with sensory issues sleep:
- Noise-cancelling headphones: These are not just for long flights or people in the construction business. Noise-cancelling headphones can be a real lifesaver for children on the spectrum or with sensory issues. While some models can be a bit pricey, they do provide a good night’s sleep by blocking out noises that would typically keep your little one awake.
- Weighted blankets: Weighted blankets can have a great value for children on the spectrum or who experience sensory issues. These blankets can provide a sense of security, helping the child to relax when it is time to go to sleep. The added pressure can also have a therapeutic effect.
- Pick the right PJs: Many children with sensory issues are very sensitive to touch, making the fabric of pajamas an important factor. Spend time with your child picking out pajamas made from materials they find light and comfortable.
- Deep pressure or joint compressions: Applying deep pressure to your child’s arms or legs can be a helpful strategy for helping them to relax at bedtime. Applying either of these techniques can provide the proprioceptive input that children with sensory issues require.
- Limit screen time in the evening: We seem to be constantly connected to a device, and even children are following this pattern. Be sure to limit the amount of time your child spends in front of a screen after school, particularly in the hour or two right before bedtime. This can play a big role in helping them to decompress.
Would you like to learn more about how pediatric occupational therapy can help with sleep issues?
Contact Chicago Occupational Therapy or call (773) 980-0300 to learn more about our services for children, including applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.