No one functions well the day after getting too little sleep, or sleep that’s poor in quality. Sleep problems in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder have been reported as high as 80%. This may affect their ability to focus, attend to task, control impulsive behaviors, and even their appetites. One of the reasons we included sleep tracking when we created Birdhouse was because we know just how much sleep can affect other variables like mood, eating habits, even toileting behaviors! Being able to account for quality and quanity of sleep helps to define triggers for behavioral struggles, and being able to share that information with other members of a care team, helps to illuminate and explain reasons behind difficult behaviors.
Did you know that the National Sleep Foundation recommends 10-11 hours of sleep each night for school age children? While there are many factors which may contribute to difficulty sleeping: hormones, medications, fluctuating schedules, anxieties, etc., many families find that addressing the sensory needs of their children can make a big difference.
Here are some sensory-related strategies that are easy to implement and just might make a difference for someone you love.
- Using white noise machines can sound like rushing waterfalls, light rain, or wind. The consistent noise is random in character and can provide comfort and calm.
- A small fan can offer a similar experience to a noise machine without the use of electronics or if the frequency of white noise is bothersome.
- Soft, soothing music can help lull a child to sleep. Simple melodies can provide a distraction from other things gripping a child’s attention, like anxieties or even repetitive thoughts.
- Yoga Stretches can be very helpful in shifting the mind’s focus to relaxation techniques and rhythmic breathing.
- Soft movement on an exercise ball or in a rocking chair.
- Gentle swinging in a swing or a hammock.
- A warm rice-filled sock can help provide comfort and relaxation (here’s how to make your own!)
- A warm bath can not only help relax tense muscles, but if made part of a routine, it could help set the tone for bedtime.
- Warming towels or blankets in the dryer
- Weighted blankets can provide proprioceptive input and create a calming effect on the body.
- Joint compression also provides proprioceptive input and can help manage the body’s reaction to overstimulation.
- Gentle squeezes and deep touch pressure can help release tension and provide a calming effect.