If there were an award for the “world’s worst sleeper“, my three boys would have taken gold, silver, and bronze.
In hindsight, it’s obvious that they all struggled with sensory issues, even as infants. Never able to sleep unless moving in a car, or strapped tightly to my chest. Never able to self soothe. Never able to stay asleep more than an hour or two for YEARS!
Now that they’re older and I understand the role that sensory needs have in everyone’s life, I am better able to meet those needs and have a decent shot at a full night’s sleep.
So if you’re looking for sensory solutions to poor sleeping habits, give some of these a try!
A Good Night Starts with a Good Morning
If your child isn’t getting the sensory input they need throughout the day, they may make a last ditch effort before sleep to get it. That will make everyone miserable.
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When bedtime rolls around, be sure to stick to a routine.
As a sensory family, this might look a little different. Since bath time is a battlefield, we don’t do that in the evening. And before the “calm down” part of bedtime, we try and get tons of proproceptive input, usually in the form of trampoline jumping. Then we pick a lulling vestibular activity, like gentle rocking or swinging (not spinning).
After that, we do the normal things like bedtime stories, prayers, and singing.
Set the Scene
Make their beds a sensory oasis.
Weighted blankets and the proprioception they provide has been known to make a HUGE difference for kids.
Or maybe your child would prefer a “SnugBlanket” which is great if weighted blankets are too hot. There are even bed “tents” that help kids feel secure and block out unwanted input. Don’t forget to get them in comfy clothes. (See the lesson on clothing issues for a reminder.)
Create a comfortable amount of light for your child. Some like it bright, some like it pitch black. Listen to their needs.
Give Them Control
Kids with sensory issues are living in a world that seems threatening and out of control.
Sometimes what will seem like a ridiculous bedtime request becomes less outlandish when you think of it as giving your child a bit more power over their world.
Let them pile all their stuffed animals on top of themselves.
Let them fall asleep with the bright overhead light on.
Let them sleep in the same jeans they didn’t want to wear in the morning and now can’t bare to take off.
Keep them safe, but pick your battles.
After all that work to get kids to sleep, there’s nothing more defeating than hearing them wake up again long before morning. Try these ideas to limit those nighttime wakings.
- Use white noise or relaxing music
- Get super comfortable noise canceling headphones (like CozyPhones that look delightful, or these more classic pair.)
- Diffuse essential oils that promote sleep (like Lavender, Roman Chamomile and my personal favorite, Vetiver)
- Try a vibrating mattress
- Consider supplements or diet changes (See a doctor for advice, but cutting out everything artificial is a good place to start! I’m also a fan of adding THIS to my kids’ baths. It’s readily absorbed through the skin and no need to fight with a picky eater!)
Hang In There
Sensory related sleep issues, aren’t typically fixed overnight (sorry for the pun). I encourage you to keep fighting the uphill battle one day at a time. Try not to go further down the spiral of bad sleeping habits, but take mini steps in the right direction.
And ask for help. There’s nothing wrong with waving a white flag and taking a nap when a neighbor or friend offers to help.