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Creating the ideal sleeping space can be easily achieved using just 6 key steps. A critical look at a person’s bedroom is often the first step in evaluating better sleep opportunities.
many Special Needs Families report Sleep Difficulties
If you’re a special needs family that experiences sleep troubles, you are not alone! In fact, the prevalence of parent-reported sleep difficulties of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Development Disabilities and/or Intellectual Disabilities can be as high as 89%.
My family was one of them until we got intentional about sleep, and made it a priority. In our case, my daughter had difficulty both falling asleep and staying asleep through the night. It wasn’t uncommon to get to sleep around midnight, only for her to wake at 3:30 am for the day.
Start with the environment
To start, the first area we tackled was my daughter’s bedroom. Asking her whether or not it was comfortable didn’t give us too much to go on, as we’d often get one-word answers from her. Expressing that she wanted a “red bed,” because red is her favorite color, we checked out Amazon for red sheets, blankets and comforters.
Consider Sensory Needs
Personal preferences and sensory needs are also important to consider– does a child need deep pressure to relax (using a weighted blanket, for example)? Are they sensitive to certain materials or seams? Tags? How do they feel about socks on their feet? One-piece pajamas or two?
We live in the Northeast where winters are cold, so I used to be a stickler for dressing my kids warm at bedtime, including socks. I mean, we’ve all heard the phrase “warm and cozy,” right? Well, while that may be, it drove my daughter with special needs crazy! She loves wearing soft fuzzy socks around the house, but not while she sleeps.
Something so seemingly small can make a big impact on sleep. You need to be an investigator of sorts – looking at all of the clues (both verbal and non-verbal) that your child is giving you.
six ways to create An ideal sleep environment:
Is there a dimmer on the bedroom light? If not, can a small lamp be added that uses a low-watt bulb (like 40 watts)?
Dimming the lights about an hour before bed can send a signal to the brain that it’s time to go to sleep. In the summertime especially (when it stays light longer) room darkening curtains or shades are helpful.
It’s also recommended that tablets and TVs are not used in the bedroom at all, or at least not during the hour before bedtime. Interestingly, my daughter likes to use a soft sleep mask. It cost a whopping $3 at the discount store Five Below, and she says it helps her to sleep.
2: Inviting & Clutter Free
Bedrooms should be a relaxing place, with colors and soothing things that your child loves. This might include a favorite blanket, doll or stuffy.
It’s also helpful to keep the space free from clutter. I don’t know about you, but clutter makes me feel anxious! Making the bed each day also makes the space look fresh and inviting.
My daughter LOVES stuffies – I mean LOVES them. To the point where we can barely find her in the bed – she’d have them all at once. Because of that, I purchased a couple of inexpensive organizers to hang on the wall, so she can choose a handful to be on her bed each night.
Experts say that a cool environment – between 60 and 67 degrees is ideal for sleeping. Trial and error will help get to what’s best for your child.
The mattress, sheets and pillows should all be comfortable. To that end, I purchased a set of flannel sheets that I thought I’d love. They were on sale and made of microfiber. Not only were they incredibly hot, they were full of static – sticking to me with static electricity sparks. I hated them. I now look for sheets that are made from cotton.
Don’t forget sleepwear comfort too! One of our favorite things are those super soft pajama bottoms that they have at Five Below for just $5! My only advice would be to hang dry when washed – and they will remain as soft as the day you buy them.
There’s noise you can control (in your house, from TV, electronics, etc.) and those you can’t (outside noise, kids paying outdoors in the summertime).
Reduce noise that you can control, such as the TV. In fact, the light and changing volume from the TV can interrupt sleep.
For noise you can’t control, consider using something to create white noise. For example, a fan or white noise machine can create a consistent, soothing sound throughout the night.
We love Homedics MyBaby SoundSpa Lullaby. We’ve been using it for years (I’m not an affiliate, just a happy customer). It has multiple settings for soothing sounds like rain, heartbeat, ocean or music. It can be programmed to shut off after 15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes. This model is certified by the National Sleep Foundation too. My kids continued to use this well after their baby years. My 9 year old still uses it every night to help her sleep.
Lavender is known to be a soothing scent that can help promote sleep. Using an oil diffuser can be a cost-effective way to produce soothing scents in a bedroom space. Taking a bath before bed using a lavender scented soap, Epsom salts, or bath bomb can also help promote sleep.
Sleep issues can be complex. When determining why your child is having trouble falling or staying asleep, it’s important to critically look at the sleeping environment as a starting point. Use these 6 steps to create an ideal sleeping space for your child.
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Yes, sleep has definitely been a challenge for us over the years. Now, just as my son is sleeping a bit more (he’s 18), I’ve practically stopped sleeping ;-P
Thanks for the ideas,
Full Spectrum Mama
Sleep has always been a huge struggle for us in our house and is something we’re still working at constantly. This post was great though since it gave me a mental audit of little things we can tweak and try in hopes of better sleep!