This is a guest article by Charles Vallena (thesleepmatters@gmail.com)

 

Everyone needs a peaceful slumber for optimum health and wellness. Children sleep more than adults because it is necessary for their growth and development. 

Unfortunately, children with special needs can have problems sleeping because of physical, mental, and developmental issues. If you have such a child, here are ten ways you can help your kid with special needs sleep better at night. 

 

 

1. Create a Relaxing and Cozy Environment

Putting soothing and relaxing items in your child’s bedroom can improve his sense of security whenever you tuck him into his bed for the night. Soft lights, mellow sounds, and a comfortable mattress, pillows, and blanket can all help in calming his mind. 

According to Dr. John DeGarmo of the Foster Care Institute, using weighted blankets can encourage relaxation and improve mood by promoting the more efficient release of dopamine and serotonin, allowing kids with special needs to sleep better.

 

2. Play Soothing Sounds

Studies show that music can induce a mental or physical state conducive to sleep, while also blocking external or internal stimulus from disrupting the sleep. Calming music can send your child to slumberland in as little as three minutes. You can also use his favorite audiobook to help him fall asleep.

It would be best to set the soothing music on continuous play. Should your child stir and wake up in the middle of the night, he can fall back to sleep a lot faster because of the familiar calming sound.

3. Have an Early Dinner

Having dinner as close to bedtime as possible will not help your child fall asleep fast, said experts at Sleep Matters . His digestive system will still be too busy processing the food he ate at dinner time. It would be best to have dinner at least two hours before going to bed.

It will also help kids with special needs to fuel up at dinner. You can give them healthy, complex carbs and proteins to put low blood sugar in check. The body processes proteins and complex carbs a lot longer than simple sugars, preventing a dip in blood glucose that can awaken your child at night.

4. Avoid Stimulating Drinks and Food before Bedtime

Avoid giving your child stimulant foods and drinks before bedtime because these food items activate some neurotransmitters that can make falling asleep difficult and keep him awake longer. 

Dark chocolates, aged cheese, ice cream, tomatoes, spicy foods, cured meats, pizza, onion rings, French fries, sugar cereals, chocolate cakes, and energy drinks are a no-no. 

Additionally, avoid caffeine. For example, a cold brew coffee has a caffeine content of 200 mg for a 16-ounce cup.

5. Ask Your Doctor for a Melatonin Supplement

Contrary to what many people think, melatonin does not put you to sleep. However, it prepares the mind into a state of relaxed and quiet wakefulness, promoting sleep. It calms the brain, allowing it to slow its processes for regenerative and restorative rest and sleep.

You can ask your doctor to prescribe a melatonin supplement for your kid with special needs. The recommended dose is 0.3 to 0.5 mg about an hour before bedtime. If your child has ADHD or autism spectrum, he may require a larger dose of 2 to 6 mg.

6. Consider Using Natural Remedies

If you are not comfortable giving your child synthetic melatonin, you can ask your doctor about natural sleep-promoting remedies. For example, Dr. Nicole Beurkens recommends Valerian1000 essential oil to children with neurodevelopmental disorders, cognitive impairment, and ADHD.

Another natural remedy you can try is Vetiver essential oil. You can rub this essential oil on your child’s belly button right before he goes to bed. Some parents are also successful in helping their kids sleep better at night by using a diffuser for the essential oil.

7. Get a Lightbox

Children with specific learning disabilities can benefit from a lightbox to help them sleep better. Studies show that a normal circadian rhythm promotes efficient memory consolidation, an integral component of learning. 

Light therapy can help reset your child’s circadian rhythm, promoting sleep, and allowing him to fall asleep faster. The trick is to use the correct light intensity to reset the body’s normal body clock. Exposing your child to very bright light for 30 minutes in the morning can also help.

8. Make Space in Your Bedroom

Most kids with special needs wake up at night feeling anxious and scared. In many instances, they get out of their bed and head straight to their parents’ bedroom to feel safe and secure. If your child happens to be like this, you may want to modify your bedroom.

If your bedroom has ample space, adding a small bed can help provide your child a temporary safe haven for him to feel safe and comfortable. He can continue his sleep without waking you up. A futon mattress is perfect for bedrooms with limited space.

9. Consider Giving Your Child a Body Pillow

Body pillows are perfect for maintaining optimum spinal alignment and pressure point relief. However, did you know that it can also provide your child a sense of security and feelings of comfort?

Giving your child a large body pillow he can hug during sleep can help him stay asleep better. He feels more secure, mimicking the sensations of having his mom cuddle him as he goes to and stays in slumberland.

10. Put Your Kid Snuggly to Bed

Many kids consider their blankets and beddings as a form of security. It helps them feel calm and relaxed, allowing them to sleep better. Unfortunately, constant movements during sleep can remove the blanket or loosen the bedding, awakening the child.

It will help if you put your child to sleep and tuck in the blanket tightly under the mattress. Doing so will give your child a sense of safety while also feeling comfortable. You can weigh down the edges of your kid’s blanket to keep him snug.

Conclusion

There are more than ten ways you can help your kid with special needs sleep better at night. One thing parents must remember is to understand and appreciate their children’s unique needs. It will give them an idea of the best possible approach to secure a more peaceful and restful slumber for their young loved ones.