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Sleep Strategies

If you’re reading this blog then there’s a good chance your child has disturbed sleep. First.....Do you know how much sleep your child is getting?HealthyChildren.org is affiliated with the American Academy of Pediatrics. Their website has specific information for each age regarding sleeping. Your child may need a sleep study prescribed by their pediatrician. Before that takes place or is even needed, that shouldn't stop you from trying the strategies/recommendations below.


Lighting:

  • Electronics (blue lights emitted from electronics) before bed can suppress the production of Melatonin (a natural hormone that is released when it gets dark or evening time). Try to shut off electronics 1 hour before bedtime. If you must use electronics before bedtime, use an Anti Blue Light Screen Protector for cell phones, iPads and laptops.

  • Bright bedroom lighting can decrease the release of Melatonin. Use floor lamps or a dimmer on your main light.


Aroma Therapy:

  • Use an aroma mister with a therapeutic grade of Lavender. Authentic lavender has a calming effect on the brain.

Room Temperature:


68 degrees is a recommended sleeping temperature but use your own judgement…your family may prefer it a degree warmer or cooler. I’m a cold natured person but my son is not. I used to pile blankets on him when he was a toddler. One night I came in to tuck him in with nice warm blankets. My son was nonverbal at the time, so he sat up and gave me the STOP sign. He didn’t want those blankets on him. What you believe is comfortable, may be uncomfortable for your child.


Humidifier or Dehumidifier:


I used to reside in a loft that was formerly a warehouse and it was repurposed into residential lofts. We had to have a dehumidifier because mold would start to grow on everything. Kids with special needs are more sensitive to their environment so they may have a reaction to something long before you do. You always have to have your investigator hat on when you’re trying to help your child who may be nonverbal.

Telltale signs you may need a dehumidifier (too much moisture in the air):

  • Condensation on your windows is a good telltale sign that you have too much moisture in your house.

  • Mold spots on ceilings and wall corners.

  • Blistering paint or peeling wallpaper.

Telltale signs you may need a humidifier (not enough moisture in the air):

  • Static Electricity: Do you ever get zapped when you touch someone or something? When the air is too dry, static electricity begins to build up.

  • Dry Lips and Skin

  • Stuffy Nose and Nosebleeds


Melatonin:


In the evening your body releases Melatonin (hormone to make you sleepy). Many doctors recommend Melatonin and it shouldn’t exceed 9 mg. Consult with your child’s doctor. Some of my parents have reported Night Terrors (vivid nightmares) after giving their child Melatonin. Instead of stopping Melatonin altogether, try reducing the dosage.


Nature Sounds/Music:

  • Use nature sounds of waterfalls or a flowing river.

  • Use Binaural Beats/Isochronic Tones (requires regular earbuds or headphones)

  • Therapeutic Listening (must be implemented by a professional certified in TL)

Weighted Blankets:


If your child is still sleeping in the bed with you it’s likely because you have not allowed them to independently self regulate. They are used to your body weight being next to them. Lie your child on a cot next to your bed with a weighted blanket (approx 10% of your child’s body weight). Your child may cry because you’re breaking their routine but they will be okay.


Brushing Protocol:


This is my first go-to strategy when it comes to transitions. Your child having difficulty falling asleep (transitioning from an awake to sleep state) or waking in the middle of the night (transitions between light sleep, deep sleep, REM sleep) will likely benefit from the Brushing Protocol. This strategy is typically implemented by an OT.


I hope this blog was helpful with aiding your child with a better nights sleep.

Amani Helvy, OTR/L


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