In my first post I shared the importance of sleep in helping our family cope with Aspergers. Today I’ll share some ways to get better sleep.
Encourage Exercise- The amount of physical exercise a child does during the day is directly related to better sleep at night.
A medical study published in 2009 found that every hour a child was sedentary during the day added three minutes to the time it took him to fall asleep. The study also determined that children who fell asleep faster ended up sleeping for longer periods of time.
I know personally that the days my children are inactive are the nights I have trouble getting them to bed.
Limit Caffeine and Sugar Intake- Both caffeine and sugar are stimulants and can prevent the brain from quieting down for sleep. If you are unable to completely cut these chemicals out of your child’s diet, at least limit them in the hours just before bedtime. You will see a noticeable difference in your child’s ability to go to sleep.
Curb Electronic Use- A study published in Pediatrics (the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics) reported that children who played video games in the hours just before bedtime actually took longer to fall asleep and experienced less deep sleep than those who did not use electronics before bed. Television viewing was also found to affect nighttime sleep.
You can help your child sleep better by turning off the television and electronic games two or more hours before bedtime.
Maintain a Consistent Bedtime Routine-Doing the same activities repeatedly in the same order signals your brain that it’s time to relax. If you have young children, you can implement a routine which includes bath time, brushing teeth, reading a story and saying prayers.
Older children can be encouraged to listen to calming music, do light stretching or read a chapter book before bed.
Check the Comfort Level: Physical comfort is especially important for children with sensory issues. Simply having a night light that is too bright or a room that is too cool can prevent a child with Aspergers from sleeping. Some areas to consider:
Mattress- If the bed is too hard for your child, you might try purchasing a foam mattress topper or “egg crate” topper.
Sheets-Are your child’s sheets scratchy? Does the material breathe? Find a material that feels good to your child to will enable him to sleep better.
Blankets-Children with Aspergers can be sensitive to the weight of the blankets on the bed. We have found that a light weight quilt provides just enough warmth without the heaviness of other types of cover.
Temperature- Room temperature is a factor for some children. If you don’t want to adjust your thermostat, use a fan to cool the room or a space heater in winter. (Remember to keep heaters away from all fabrics!)
Noise-If your child is bothered by noise you can try ear plugs or providing white noise with a fan or sound machine.
Try Supplements- When all else fails, we have used supplements such as melatonin to help my son sleep. Some studies have shown that consistent use of melatonin results in the body producing even less on its own. As always, do your own research and check with your medical professional before using supplements.
Using these tips can help your family get a good night’s sleep and make life more enjoyable for everyone.
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