Sleep? Where are you?

Time to get ready for bed” is the phrase that is echoed across the globe from parents to offspring signaling the end of their day.  However, in our house, that phrase is a call to action to be so starving and so thirsty.  With P’s diagnoses, bedtime used to be a lost cause.  It would take hours to get him to calm down, then up and down out of my bed 50 times to tell P to quiet down, go back to his room, or no more drinks/no more snacks.  P would do everything in is power to avoid sleeping.  Sleep deprivation has been proven to negatively affect our health, mood, weight, decision-making skills, and stress tolerance.  We have experienced many sleepless nights and just as many dreary mornings.  P was displaying aggressive behaviors and poor decision-making skills.   It was apparent that we needed to talk to someone about getting our house some good quality sleep.

I wanted to share some of tips and tricks that we have picked up along the way to find that ever elusive full night of sleep.

The first thing we realized that we needed to do was to make sleep a priority.  This was one of our first forays into using visual schedules.  We needed to show P the steps that needed to be done to get ready for bed.  We used dry erase markers on the bathroom mirror to write down the steps for P.  We also used the whiteboard that he could carry with him that showed the steps that needed to be completed.   The visual schedule helped P to learn to know what to expect at bedtime.  Challenges and outbursts were limited because we could say “Look at your schedule.”

Sensory Needs was the next lesson that we immersed ourselves in.   What was it that P needed to relax and calm down at night.  Not only did the perfect trifecta (ADHD, Anxiety, Autism) of no sleep play cruel jokes on P but also noises, smells, sights, and sensitivity to fabrics can add to sleep difficulties.  We realized that we needed to keep bedtime as calm and relaxed as possible.  White noise machines or fans may help filter out sounds.  Night lights may help as well.  Blankets and sheets may feel OK to us, but to the child, they hurt.  A great lesson we learned is to take P shopping when it is time for a blanket or sheets.  He usually doesn’t care about color, but he cares about how the fabrics feel.  Once P has had a chance to examine, feel, and touch the materials he can determine if it would be acceptable or not.  I have had to remind myself that it is not me using those fabrics at bedtime, so I’ve had to practice patience while P is deciding what is good or not.

We saw a doctor that was a firm believer in the use of sleep tools.  P used a weighted blanket for years.  You can find patterns for weighted blankets on how to DIY on Pinterest.  Sticker charts are helpful for some children.  When-then schedules.  Gro-clock that helps a child learn when it is and isn’t time to wake up.  Some children benefit with a tent over their bed.  That gives them a cozy nest and helps them feel safe and secure.  And as another tool, there are sleep medications that doctors can prescribe for children.  Be sure to talk to your doctor to find a medication that is appropriate for your kiddo.

Sleep deprivation can lead to learning problems, hyperactivity, inability to concentrate, and aggressive behavior.  As a parent, I realized that I needed to train myself to make bedtime calm and relaxing.  As a mom, I needed a plan for a bedtime.  The project includes time for winding down, devices are done, TV is off, and calm down time.  After supper and shower time, I spend some time laying out breakfast options, make sure lunches/snacks are prepared, backpacks are ready to go, and devices are charging (or we at least know where charging cords are located so they can be plugged).  The second part is allowing time for reading a book or two and any extra cuddles. DVR TV shows, so you aren’t rushing bedtime.

The sleep plan is always a work in progress, but the one thing that stays steady is that good night’s sleep is a priority.  Do you have any sleep tips that you would add to this?  I’d love to hear them.  Leave me a comment!

All my best to you,

Heather

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