I have three children, ranging in ages from 11 to 15. They have various disabilities that differ in severity, and they all can have trouble sleeping.
I think most children, just like adults, can have sleep issues, but then there are some kids that just don’t sleep. My daughter is one of these kids. Her psychiatrist, who also specializes in sleep disorders, believes that some people just do not require as much sleep as others. The problem for my daughter comes about when she wakes for the day and I am still needing sleep that my body requires in order to function.
I took my concerns to her primary doctor, who sent her to a sleep specialist. First, he wanted to rule out sleep apnea. My girl’s study showed no sleep apnea! Great news!
As soon as medical reasons have been ruled out, there are other options you can consider:
There are many medicines that help with sleep. Choosing to use medication is always a personal choice, and is different for each individual child and family.
Sleep is very important for everyone, but especially for growing bodies and minds. Contact your child’s doctor to explore these options. My girl functions so much better when she sleeps because sleep is important for her mental illness stability.
This is maybe the most important step. It is important that the bedtime routine needs to stay as consistent as possible. That means you start at the same time, do the same things, and end at the same time, every night. Of course, there will be days that it just is not possible to keep the routine and schedule. Just be prepared for some behavior challenges throughout the next day.
It is important that my girl has a full tummy, quiet calming activities, and hugging and kissing the same way and in the same spot every single night. Each child is so different, but after a few observations and trials you will see what is too stimulating before bed and when their last snack should be.
Establish a routine that will help your child relax and prepare for sleep. After a while, it will become just a special time of every day. I have been known to sleep well right after this routine, too!
The Family Support section of this site has a lot of helpful information. Have a look.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.