SPD and Problems Sleeping

One mom writes... "My daughter's SPD and problems sleeping are driving me nuts!

We have been taking our daughter (8 years old) to OT for sensory issues for a year now. The OT is absolutely wonderful and so knowledgeable. But the sleep issue is driving me nuts!

Our daughter rarely sleeps through the night and it seems that the more we try to do for her, the worse it is. Right now, she is sleeping on the floor of our room in a sleeping bag. We were hoping that she would be comforted knowing that we were in the room with her and that she would start a good rhythm of sleeping.  But she is still waking up and now is asking to be in bed with us. 

Every time we decide that we need to be firm and consistent, she will have a nightmare and we are off again. We don't want her to lay awake in bed being scared, but we need sleep and so does she!

I know that she is not the only one who has difficulty but I don't know how to help her! Any ideas?"


Ah, SPD and problems sleeping... VERY common indeed.

Because she is already in OT, I feel confident that whatever may be SPD related will eventually work itself out. What isn't SPD related, if anything, may need to be addressed in another way. I have a few suggestions for you.

First, I want to say the sleeping bag is a great idea! Any deep pressure input she can get while sleeping should help. I would also suggest "lining" her sleeping bag with stuffed animals that will "protect" her from her nightmares. Really though, what it will do is add more deep pressure input to her body to keep her calm and relaxed. But, it may also help psychologically for the nightmares.

Next, kids with SPD who have difficulties sleeping often benefit from a weighted blakets. The important things to remember when using a weighted blanket is to use EVEN weight distribution, AND, that he total weight should be 10% of the individual's body weight plus one pound. For example, a 100 lb person would use an 11 lb. weighted blanket (10% of 100 = 10lbs, plus 1 lb = 11lbs total weight).

Dietary Supplements May Help With Problems Sleeping

Also, I would suggest you talk to your pediatrician about a supplement that helps many of our SPD kiddos when they can't fall asleep or stay asleep, called Melatonin. Please do not give it to her without checking with your doctor first!  It shouldn't be harmful in any way, but I do not know your daughter's health history, so it is necessary to check with her doc first. You can do some research online beforehand about it. It is a natural biochemical produced in our bodies during sleep and sometimes kids need more of it, as their bodies aren't producing enough. Just do some internet searches about it, then bring that info to your pediatrician and ask him if you can give it to her sometimes when she is having a rough time. It is best not to give it to her EVERY night... just once in a while, just so her body doesn't get "dependant" on it... it is not addictive, it is just that over time her body may need more for it to be effective.

Other dietary supplements to look into that are known to calm the brain are magnesium, essential fatty acids and GABA. Again, check with your pediatrician before starting any new supplement program.

Since many of the awakenings are happening due to nightmares, I would check out two other things. One is to get her into counseling to see if there is something going on that needs to be addressed. It definitely can't hurt!

Also, if this continues, I would get her set up with a sleep specialist, as she may not be getting the "proper" sleep. Perhaps she is waking up often and is waking up during REM sleep. That's why she is remembering the nightmares. Sometimes a sleep evaluation can help rule out other issues.

I would also try an Epsom salts bath at night to help her calm down and relax for sleep. These work great with a lot of our SPD kiddos. Again, do some research on that. I can put you in touch with someone who knows a lot about it if you want.

Oh, one more thing... does she like "white noise"? Try a fan, white noise machine, or a nature sound machine. This might help her stay in a deep sleep and make her feel more comfortable.

SPD and problems sleeping? Not uncommon at all! 

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Related Resources and Further Reading

Helping Baby Sleep - You don't want to miss these strategies for soothing your fussy baby!

Tender Tones blanket - What better than a soft, plush blanket which emanates the sound of mom's soothing, rhythmic heartbeat.

Weighted Blankets - Use weighted blankets to calm and relax high energy kids or to calm and relax children, teens and adults with Sensory Processing Disorder

Heavy work activities - (i.e., proprioceptive input) are used for children with sensory processing difficulties to help increase attention, decrease defensiveness, and modulate arousal.

Make Your Own Weighted Blanket - A popular and informative submission and comments from the readers of Sensory-Processing-Disorder

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