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>> Sleeping & night-time <<
These tips have all been sent in by other parents, carers and professionals in the learning disability community. We hope they will give you plenty of ideas to try, but please remember Netbuddy is not responsible for the information provided or any of the activities suggested.
In your room
We put a futon at the end of our bed, so if our son wakes in the night he can come & sleep on it without waking us up. Knowing that he doesn’t have to sleep in a room on his own is enough to resolve his anxiety & allow him to sleep soundly
You can ring my bell
When the little boy I look after got a bit too grown up for a baby monitor, but still needed help sometimes at night, I got him a wireless doorbell to use to call me.
A good routine
To help our daughter sleep and reinforce the idea that it's bedtime we follow the same script every night. We go in her room, have a story, put on some sensory lights and then I do the 'time to go to sleep' bit from the end of 'In the Night Garden'
In our home, we all take turns taking a bath or shower, brushing our teeth and putting on pyjamas. We turn off lights and electronic devices “because it’s bedtime” By making bedtime a group effort, it’s easier for everyone.
My son has been sleeping better since we got him a long body pillow. Squeezing it helps him to feel secure
I'm really loving these Dream Tubes which I bought from the fledglings catalogue. Although they are marketed as an aid for younger children, they are ideal for my 10 yo son with CP to use on holidays/ sleepovers. They stop him from falling out of bed
Hops, available from home brew shops, are a good herbal sleeping aid. They can be made into little pillows or left in the room out of reach. Unlike spike lavender (Lavandula latifolia) it is suitable to use for people with epilepsy
In the doghouse
We bought a giant canvas dog crate to use for our daughter to sleep in on holidays. As dreadful as that sounds, it works rather like a safe space/ extra large travel cot. She cannot get out and it keeps her safe. Folds flat too -v portable
We've found the safespace cosyfit an amazing sleep system for our daughter. She frequently wakes and cannot be unsupervised. The cosyfit keeps her safe and secure. Has benefitted the whole family!
We use a gro clock which uses simple, light-up pictures of a sun and star to differentiate between day and night. You set the times for the pictures to change - its a very useful, visual way for a person to know when it is time to go to bed / get up. Also comes with a simple story that reinforces the importance of sleep!
We got our 13 year old son with SLD a light box to help with his disturbed sleep. It works by regulating his circadin rhythms. He has a dose of very bright light in the morning for 30 mins and is not allowed to snooze during the day. There has been a improvement in his sleeping patterns and moods so I would recommend it to other sleep deprived parents!
Our son was having panics at night. We got him an ipod but were worried about the headphone wires. We've now found an amazing Mp3 Pillow at Argos http://bit.ly/coKVRa. A speaker is buried in the pillow with a lead safely in the corner.He has his old headhead phones to chew on if he wants and we are no longer buying a new pair every other day! Great for the car too!
Warm & weighty duvets
For the warmth of a duvet without the weight on feet and legs, make small bean bag cushions and put one on each corner at the end of the bed. You don't get cold like you do with a bed cradle but you get the same benefit.
Son et lumiere
Themed light shows can be bought in any baby shop and attached to the side of the bed or table
The Down's Syndrome Association have a useful publication on sleep, which you can buy online or download a free PDF. Sleep.
Natural Sleep concoction
After years of no sleeping we have found an effective way to help our son sleep - try this, it is a dream come true for us: a teaspoon of honey in lemon balm tea and a melatonin tablet (number of tablets depends on age and weight). Also helps a bit with bedwetting prevention.
Keep the noise down
Will is noisy by day and noisy by night. We gave ear plugs to the entire family for night times – sounds funny but it does really help !
Relax Kids is a lovely idea. CDs incorporating relaxation techniques to help children sleep. Also useful for children and adults with learning disabilities. www.relaxkids.com/
Sleep tightWe had 12 years of Andrew waking during the night. A health professional suggested we wrap a quilt cover over the bed and tuck it in tightly either side under the mattress, so his bedding doesn't come off, and he feels snug and tightly tucked in. It worked instantly, and he has slept better ever since.
Back to front
Put all-in-one sleep suits on back to front to stop nappy escapologists/ diggers at night.
InsomniaFor insomnia, I find melatonin mixed in syrup works a treat.
Night wandersMy daughter wanders during the night, and has set the burglar alarm off many times. We bought a 99p plastic door hook to go over the top of her door and put a mobile that jangles on it. It has never failed us. We use this in conjunction with a baby alarm. Much better than the expensive laser equipment we tried, which went off every time she moved her duvet!
Sleep sacIf your children toss and turn a lot, which means blankets don't stay on, a sleep sac is invaluable. You may want to continue using one well after the usual age as it keeps them warm and helps avoid chest infections. You can get big ones for children up to 6 years from www.gro.co.uk
Buying a cotGet a nice cot. Our daughter stayed in hers until she was almost 4 so it's worth having something very practical and ok to look at. It's now converted to a bed and I expect we'll get another couple of years out of it.
For a few full night sleeps a week for yourself there is always the option of taking in a lodger reduced rent on the basis they will work three nights a week to look after the person you are caring for while you get a full nights sleep.
Tucking in tight
My daughter can't sleep if her duvet falls off, but is unable to pull it back on herself, which meant endless trips in the night to cover her up. I sewed pieces of sheet to each side of her duvet cover and now tuck these in when she goes to bed, the duvet stays in place with enough space for her to still move.
Home & away
I keep a lavendar sachet inside my sons pillow case so that whenever he goes to respite his bedsheets smell the same as at home. I found it helps him to settle and I think it comforts him when he is away from home at night.
Towels & teddy bears for support
When positioning your child at night, have a look in the airing cupboard - spare cushions, pillows, towels and teddy bears will often do a great job of supporting your child in bed.
Funding for positioning equipment
Engage your therapist - find out what services they offer in terms of night positioning for example do they fund positioning equipment?
Practice lying positions during the day
Remember that children spend on average three times longer in bed than they do in school - getting their position right at night is a priority. Practice different lying positions during the day - sleep systems don't have to be slept in!
Whenever possible encourage your child to sleep on their back, as this is the least destructive position for them in the long term. Use a Safety Checklist to help you think through the possible risks of your child sleeping on their back.
Night time parental turn taking. We found that it is important for at least one of us to get a full night's sleep. We do not share getting up during the night ,rather we take night duty turns.
Health visitor service
Health visitors often run a service for "crying babies" which can be adapted for children with learning difficulties - using sleep diaries and cognitive behavioural techniques to support good sleep habits.
Tape your own voice
I taped myself reading several of Beth’s favourite stories, so she could listen to my voice after I had left her bedroom.
Books on CD
We played book CD’s at bedtime. Anne Rachlin’s stories to classical music are very successful. John also loves Ringo Starr reading Thomas the Tank engine stories.
Keeping it together
My son has problems with picking at his nappy/pull ups/pads in bed, so I put press studs on pyjamas so the top and bottom fit together.
Take it to bed
We found it difficult to keep Cilla in bed till we let her take objects she likes to chew with her. It helps if we let her take things she likes to play with to bed with her. Don’t use food.
Keep any naps during the day short and not too near bed time. It should become part of a routine and as early on in the afternoon as possible.
Make it familiar
Ben behaves differently in respite care when he is trying to get to sleep. Now he takes his own pillow or at least a pillowcase I have washed at home. Washing powders have very different smells and it was the smell of the sheets and pillow that was putting him off sleeping.
Buy a brave girl/boy soft toy which you can get out when you have a babysitter.
We were given a baby rocking chair for Ashley which worked brilliantly so when he got older we bought a maternity rocking chair which he could sit in and fall asleep.
We stuck dozens of fluorescent stars and moons on Beth’s ceiling, and when the lights were off, the whole room was aglow. She would often lie mesmerised by the effect until she fell asleep.
We have a stable door on Zoe’s bedroom to keep her safe so that when we check on her at night we don’t wake her up. We also use stair gates on other doors to prevent her from going in rooms and use CABIN HOOKS on other doors to deter her. Dog gates are better and higher than child gates.
Max absolutely would not stay in bed. In the end we bought him a DVD projector and screen, which he now falls asleep to. We used to be so against this but in the end needs must !
Try painting the bedroom warm calming colours. Blues and greens are known to be great colours for relaxation.
Blue: Soothing. Studies show this is the best color for sleep, as it actually induces sleep-time horomones.
Purple: Calms anxiety and slows muscle activity.
Colors that counteract relaxation: Red, yellow and orange. Keep these out of the bedroom!
Check bedroom temperature. 65 to 70 farenheit / 18 – 20 celsius is considered normal and check for drafts.
Love my room
Don’t use the bedroom as a place for punishment, you only want to have positive feeling associated with the bedroom.
Black out blinds
We found using black-out blinds in Sophie's bedroom made her sleep much better, especially in summer.
We find using a heavy blanket, a sleeping bag, and/or encouraging Tom to hug a pillow are all calming. The deep touch pressure suits his sensory needs.
Sensory needs bedwear
John wears tighter bed clothing (in fact we used a full protection UV swim suit) , as the deep touch pressure enables him to settle and maintain sleep.
We make a tighter cosier space for Chelsea by surrounding her with pillows to make her bed snug.
For relaxation try a foot, hand, scalp or body massage (use massage oil mixed with a couple of drops of essential oils for the smell, essential oils are way too strong on their own), it's very soothing and relaxing and great before bed-time. You can experiment with different pressures depending on sensory needs.
Peace and quiet
Create a relaxing environment where the person sleeps. No TV in the room is highly recommended.
Try lavender oil drops in an aromatherapy fan or humidifier as lavender can help to relax the mind.
Try and avoid exercise one to two hours before bed.
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