Some strategies for supporting your child's sleep from Caroline Pringle, our Families and Professionals Advisor (Child Enquiries) in the latest edition of her 'Snippets of Advice' blog series
There have been a number of calls and emails recently covering children’s sleep issues. At the time of writing this article many children are starting to go back to school and this transition and change to routine can be difficult for children with fragile x to process. Therefore, it will be even more important to have a good bedtime routine to enable them to cope.
I wanted to share with you some strategies families have found useful:
Although I appreciate I am stating the obvious, but do consider any health difficulties that could be impacting on your child’s sleep pattern.
Diet is an important consideration i.e., what your child eats during the day, and the right snack before bedtime. Families have said that a bowl of cereal (not high in sugar) works well as a snack before bed. The Sleep Charity produce some useful fact sheets one of which is on diet.
Some children watch a DVD before bedtime but there is the predicament that watching anything backlit like an iPad, laptop, or TV can supresses the melatonin levels that a child produces to aid them in getting off to sleep. This may be the case with your child, and it is advisable not to watch anything too close to bedtime. There is an excellent Sesame Street and Headspace YouTube clip showing Elmo learning how to relax and sleep. However, rather than watching at bedtime; perhaps it is something to view earlier and then practice.
A sleep soother is a soft toy with a music box inside, and this has been helpful for some families. It works best if used for night-time only and not as a toy that your child would be playing with during the day. Some sleep soothers have an option to project lights (stars) onto the ceiling and have a range of music as well as white noise to play for a selected amount of time.
White noise is another option and I know of families who have left a fan on during the night, but perhaps getting a white noise app for your device may be a safer option as the noise can be kept at a safe level.
A sound pillow is another product that has helped some children – these items allow a music device to be safely plugged in and music is heard through the pillow at a safe sound level. This could work well with playing the white noise app on a device.
I have had mixed feed-back from families on using clocks - but a day time/night time one such as the Gro Clock does help some children.
Clothing – if you child wears nappies/ pads at night and tries get to these, then using a ‘onesie’ back to front helps to reduce the opportunity to gain access and they fidget less which will hopefully lead to less disrupted sleep.
Some parents have used a double duvet on a child’s bed or a weighted blanket, but you would need to gain advice from an OT re this to ensure you have the correct weight of item for your child.
As part of your bedtime routine, it is possible that you look at books together and anything regarding bedtime seems to help; the Goodnight, Spot books have proved popular with younger children and another book that was recommend was Good night iPad.
Social stories are another option, and this can be a general one about your child’s bedtime routine. I have found in the past when working with families, that some children are anxious about what else is going on in the home when they are in bed. Using a dual story to show their routine and then below this show what you will be doing (in effect nothing too exciting) so images of washing up, having a cuppa, etc. has proved very successful. I am more than happy to help you put one together if you wish to contact me directly.
A visual schedule such as this may help your child cope with the bedtime routine and know what to expect next.
It gives reference to the cerebra sleep service that could be very useful to you as they can give you 1:1 support. In certain situations, it is also possible that you can access a sleep specialist though your GP.
I hope sharing the above ideas has been of help. I appreciate that the information is general and should you want support more specific to your child’s needs then please contact me.