A good night’s sleep is important for children’s learning and development. When young people don’t get enough sleep, it can affect their mood, school performance, health and behavior.
The impact of sleep on quality of life is a force we all understand. For children with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), poor nighttime sleep can have further implications not only for the child’s mental health, but also for the mental health and stress levels of the parent. It can have a big impact. .
Up to 80% of children with autism have trouble sleeping. Common behavioral difficulties parents report include sleep disturbances (problems falling asleep), parasomnias (problems waking up in the middle of the night), and early morning awakenings. These problems tend to persist if not treated effectively.
Behavioral interventions are an important first step in treating sleep disorders in children. In particular, our study found that sleep problems in children with autism can be effectively treated when sleep strategies are tailored to the child’s needs.
Also, this technique is useful for all families who suffer from sleep deprivation in children.
Sleeping Sound is a program that tailors strategies to the sleep needs and preferences of young people. Originally created to manage sleep problems in children with typical developmental disorders, Sleeping Sound has been adapted over the last decade to help children with autism and ADHD. .
A randomized controlled trial, the gold standard for determining whether interventions are effective, was conducted in 245 children with autism aged 5-13 years and their parents. Families were randomly assigned to an intervention group (receiving sleep sounds) or a control group (not receiving sleep sounds).
Families in the intervention group participated in two 50-minute face-to-face sessions and a follow-up phone call with a pediatrician or psychologist. They underwent evaluation, sleep education, and an individualized practical strategy tailored to the child and family.
what did we find?
Families who received the Sleeping Sound intervention were found to have fewer sleep problems compared to those who did not receive the intervention. These benefits in children’s sleep were still present up to 1 year later.
Positive effects were also seen for children (improved quality of life, improved emotional and behavioral functioning) and their parents (reduced stress levels, improved mental health and quality of life).
Parents of children with autism said family support and consistency in strategy were important. This is consistent with the future direction of personalized autism health care, which recognizes the unique strengths, needs, and circumstances of people with autism and their families.
The program is still in a trial phase and not available to families in the wider community, but it uses strategies that all parents can adopt to improve their children’s sleep.
Tips for improving your child’s sleep
Parents can use a universal approach to sleep preparation and behavioral sleep strategies to help their children get a good night’s sleep.
- Set a regular bedtime and wakeup time
- Create a safe and comfortable sleeping environment (cool, quiet, dark, screen-free)
- Follow a regular bedtime that calms and induces sleep
- Avoid caffeine, electronics, and excitement before bed
- Encourage physical activity during the day
- Avoid exercising one hour before bedtime.
What if good sleep remains elusive?
In addition to practicing healthy sleep habits and establishing a bedtime routine, parents can try a variety of behavioral strategies that can help their child.
This strategy is useful when the parent needs to be in the room for the child to fall asleep, or when staying in the bedroom is difficult.
Put your child to bed, but promise to come back and check. Visit your child regularly at night to check on him and reassure him. Gradually increase the interval time.
The check should be boring and short (about 1 minute).
fading at bedtime
This strategy is useful if your child is unable to sleep at their desired bedtime.
Temporarily adjust your bedtime to the time your child naturally falls asleep. Every few days she advances her bedtime by 15 minutes until she reaches her desired bedtime.
These strategies can be helpful if your child feels anxious at bedtime or has difficulty falling asleep.
Teach your child progressive muscle relaxation. Lie down with your eyes closed and encourage your child to tighten and relax every muscle in his body in turn.
Teach your child controlled breathing. Help me learn to breathe long, slow breaths in through my nose and out through my mouth.
Encourage your child to write or draw what worries them during the day and put it in the Worry Box.
Children may experience one or more sleep disorders and may require a combination of behavioral sleep strategies. If you have concerns about your child’s sleep, or if sleep problems persist, consult your pediatrician or primary care physician.
We are currently recruiting new studies evaluating telemedicine sleeping sound interventions through the Krongold Clinic at Monash University. If you are a parent of her autistic child aged 5-12 who is having trouble sleeping and would like to learn more, please visit her website on our website.
Nicole Rinehart, Professor, Child and Adolescent Psychology, Director, Krongold Clinic (Research), Monash University.Emily Pattison, Research Fellow, Psychologist, Monash University, and Nicole Papadopoulos, Senior Lecturer, Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling, Monash University
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Please read the original article.