Bedtime is a crucial part of parenting. It's when your child has time to relax and wind down before going to sleep, and it's also the time that you need to feel at your best. But no one looks forward to bedtime quite like children with special needs!
These young people often have difficulty settling down at night because they struggle with anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In this article, we'll share five quick tips for making bedtime easier for kids with special needs so that both parent and child can enjoy a good night's sleep:
A healthy snack before bedtime helps children relax and feel more at ease. It also helps them sleep better. Children with ADHD, autism, and sensory processing disorder (SPD) may also benefit from a pre-bedtime snack.
It's essential to choose a snack that's not too heavy or too rich in protein because these foods will make it harder for your child to fall asleep on time if they are still awake after eating their meal before bedtime. Instead of choosing an energy bar or fruit smoothie, try something like yogurt topped with granola!
Allow enough time for a soothing bedtime routine.
Allow enough time for a soothing bedtime routine.
Create a calming routine that your child can look forward to and enjoy, such as reading a book or listening to music during bath time afterward.
Ensure your child has access to all their favorite items, so they feel safe when going into the room at night (e.g., stuffed animals, blanket). This can help keep them from getting anxious about being alone in the dark area of their bedroom where they sleep."
Dress your child in comfortable pajamas.
Pajamas are a vital part of getting ready for bedtime. They should be soft and comfortable, with loose-fitting sleeves that don't pull on the child's arms when laying down. If you have any concerns about your child's size or weight, it's best to avoid pajamas that are too small or tight-fitting.
The next thing you'll want to look at when choosing pajamas is whether they're easy enough for your child to put on themselves—for example, by pulling up their top half over their head while simultaneously sliding down their bottoms before tying off at the waistband with Velcro fasteners (or something similar). This will make sure there isn't any difficulty getting dressed in the morning!
Unlit bedrooms are highly recommended
We highly recommend you to have no light, if possible, in your child’s room. Else, you can set up a little night light to keep the room dim. Make sure it is either red or orange light so it does not stall melatonin production.
Healthy melatonin production can help children stay asleep and sleep better, making them happier overall. It will also allow them to fall asleep faster and stay in that state longer, so they'll enjoy their time with you at bedtime even more!
Set a quiet time
There's a reason why children with special needs often do better in the evening than during the day. The reason is that quiet time gives them a chance to process what they learned during the day, and prepare for bedtime.
This is especially important if your child has sensory processing disorder (SPD). SPD is a common condition in which the nervous system doesn't process sensory information properly, which can cause difficulty with social skills and motor skills as well as other types of learning disabilities.
Moreover, children with special needs need quiet time because they have so many things going on in their minds at once: sensory overload from being touched and moved around, thoughts about schoolwork that need to be done and homework that needs to be finished, fears about being alone or scared, etc.
Playing soothing music like classical music or soft sounds such as rain can help calm children down before bedtime. You can also use white noise machines or sound machines (such as "white noise" speakers) to create a calm environment for your child before bedtime.
Follow a Bedtime routine
A structured routine is one of the most important things you can do for your child with special needs. It's essential to help them develop self-soothing skills, independence, and confidence in their abilities.
You can check this blog, if you want to find more bedtime routine ideas!
If you're not sure how to create a structured routine, here are some tips:
Create a bedtime routine that works for both of you. Make sure that it is not too long or too short. A 30 minute bedtime routine is optimal. This is due to the fact that natural melatonin takes roughly 30 minutes to for you to begin to feel sleepy. The first step of the bedtime routine indicates to the body that sleep is coming and melatonin will be created. By the time your child crawls into bed they will be naturally sleepy.
Let them choose their pajamas, and help them practice wearing it until they can wear it by themselves. It would not be easy but you can do it, I believe in you! The fact that you are reading this right now shows how great you are as a parent. Your child loves his or her pajamas and YOU too!
Next, hygiene. You can help them brush their teeth, and tell them why this is important!
You can also start teaching them how to turn off the lights. Your child might find it difficult at first, but don’t worry it takes time, give him or her some words of encouragement while you’re at it!
Try using a weighted blanket for a more comfortable environment, the added warmth of it can calm them. Also, you can show him or her how to fold and unfold it!
This is the weighted blanket I recommend below:
Try this visual schedule to stay on task during your bedtime routine!
Lastly, remember to also be flexible if there are changes in your family's schedule or if a specific activity comes up during the day that conflicts with bedtime plans—like an early movie night!