Better sleep for disabled children

Guest post from Emma Sweet from Scope’s sleep team.

Emma holding a sign which says - Desperate for a good night's sleep? Ask me anythingThanks to everyone asked questions during our sleep question-and-answer session on Facebook. We had a big response.

We run workshops which cover all the basics in addressing sleep problems and provide a toolkit to address your child’s sleep problems. Our workshops are for 10 professionals and 10 parents. If you’re interested in booking, email sleep@scope.org.uk.

Tips for tackling sleep problems

Boy sleepingI hope you can join us for one of our training sessions. In the meantime, here are some of my tips you might like to try for dealing with sleep problems:

  1. Certain foods can help at bedtime – 1 hour before bed – like bananas and warm milk. Food and drinks with colouring or sweeteners can affect a child’s ability to settle at bedtime.
  2. Some children use bedtime as an attention seeking exercise, attention, good or bad, is all attention to a child. Children are clever, and find some amazing distraction techniques to avoid going to bed.
  3. Some children are lacking a routine at night time or haven’t learnt appropriate behaviour at bedtime. Visual clues and consistency are key for all children. Children with learning difficulties may not understand why or when they need to go to sleep.
  4. Addressing sleep problems is exhausting for all the family, but given time, patience, and support they are many approaches that will help.
  5. Older children and teenagers naturally experience a shift in their body clock, meaning they want to go to sleep later and get up later. Modern technology impacts on this even further.
  6. Many disabled children need moving and repositioning in the night, if you do this near the time of one of their natural night wakings they are more likely to wake up. You need to work out when they are in a deep sleep so if you do it then they are less likely to wake.
  7. If your child suffers with anxiety, the physical symptoms of anxiety will impact on their sleep. Try doing anxiety exercises at the beginning of your bedtime routine.
  8. Many people think sleep problems are linked to a child’s impairment. This is not always the case – there are many causes of sleep problems which need to be explored.
  9. Research has shown that using a behavioural programme to address sleep disorders can help almost all children. However it can take longer to see improvements if a child has a neurological condition.

More about Scope’s sleep support for families and professionals.