SPD And Toddler's Sleep Issues

I have a 2 and a half year old son who seems to fit much of the criteria for SPD. We are currently in the process of beginning occupational therapy for him.

In the meanwhile, I was wondering if you have any suggestions for sleep time? He wakes up several times in the night and it is often tough to put him back to sleep. Sometimes he asks for all kinds of things that he played with during the day. This has been going on for about 6 months now, and my husband and I are so tired. We hope there is an end in sight.

We try to be consistent with a night time routine every evening. But somehow that never translates to a full night of sleep. Any suggestions or feedback would be highly appreciated.

Thank you,

Sleeping difficulties and SPD are quite common indeed! This is a regulation issue and will take some time in therapy to overcome. It is usually one of the most difficult areas to address (regulation and the interoceptive sense), and often one of the last to improve (not always, but often).

But, do know this... you are doing all the right things by identifying this as a related SPD issue, getting him into OT and having a consistent night time routine. And, until he gets some good sensory integrative OT under his belt, you may have to ride this one out. Know if won't be forever, but it will require some patience (and naps for you!) from you until then. I KNOW it is difficult. I KNOW you are tired. This will eventually resolve (or improve significantly).

What can you do in the meantime?

  • Make sure you keep reading all you

    can about SPD.

  • Make sure your OT is experienced in SI theories and treatment, and is approaching his therapy through that lens (i.e., working on neurological reorganization and regulation issues).

  • Read the following articles, in particular: Using SI Theory To Solve Problems At Home (there is a particular section about sleep in it), Helping Baby Sleep (although some of it is geared for younger kids, it may still be helpful), SPD And Potty Training (although focused on potty training, it discusses the interoceptive sense which regulates sleep as well), Are You Ready For Sensory Itegrative OT? (helps you find the BEST OT and know their role and yours in therapy... what you need to know before starting OT)

  • Try giving him an Epsom Salts Bath in the evening a few days a week.

  • Use deep pressure massage techniques on him before bed
  • .

  • Use a white noise machine or nature sound machine.

  • As the OT if he is old enough for a weighted blanket, otherwise, stuff him and a ton of stuffed animals into a sleeping bag for bed... a nice tight, deep pressure feeling to help regulate his system).

    I wish I had a magic cure for you as this issue significantly impacts your family as well as him! All I can say, at this point is try any of the above suggestions, be patient, follow through with all OT appointments and suggested treatments, as these should help.

    One question-- what DOES he need to get back to sleep? How DO you get him back to sleep? This might be important information that could clue us into what more (or less) of something he needs.

    Anyone else have additional suggestions or input for Pritha? Let her know via the comments box below.

  • Comments for SPD And Toddler's Sleep Issues

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    Dec 11, 2018
    Another helpful tool
    by: Anonymous

    What turned a huge corner for us with our son was vision therapy...Dr. Carl Childress in TX if any of you are near Dallas area.

    What helped my son was identifying vision issues related to his sensory processing and working on many at-home therapies to help correct (as well as in office while we lived an hour & half away from Dr. Carl).

    Not everything they tell you in the SPD bibles is accurate...for example, one SPD book said not to insist on a child giving you eye contact. That actually made problems worse. Actually insisting & practicing eye contact with "eyes on" and practicing over and over has made a world of difference in his communication and social skills just to give one example.

    When we had to move away, Dr. Carl recommended the book See It. Say It. Do It, which I'm trying to go through & implement. And now we are also researching and beginning to read the book Disconnected Kids: The Groundbreaking Brain Balance Program for Children with Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Other Neurological Disorders by Robert Melillo. God bless everyone in their journeys.

    Dec 11, 2018
    Sleep issues
    by: Anonymous

    My 3 year old also has trouble sleeping, it would take him 2-3 hours to fall asleep and then he would wake up many times during the night. The diet is a crucial factor or at least for us it was, eliminating food dyes was important for his all around behavior.

    That being said we give him about .25-.50 ML (the little baby medicine dropper) of melatonin, he falls asleep within a few minutes and only wakes up once at night usually. Consult your pediatrician for this.

    Jun 19, 2015
    Not a one size fits all solution...but
    by: Anonymous

    I wanted to share our story so far, as it may give other parents going through this some hope.

    First of all, it is incredibly helpful to know we are not alone in our struggles.

    Our 3.5yr old daughter is a very bright, sweet girl, full of mischief and humor. She is very talkative and musically gifted.

    She also clearly has SPD, and it has made many normal things families do, simply impossible for us. She is very sensitive to sounds. Certain tones or pitches will cause her to have a meltdown. She is also sensory seeking. She loves motions, like going on the swings at the park, rides at the fair, or jumping and tumbling activities. This means that while going to the park (one of her favorite things) she may be so upset by sounds other children make, that she will be hysterical and we will need to leave.

    Some things have gotten better though. Some sounds that used to bother her, do not any longer, and some social fears she once had, have faded (doesn't require Dada to carry her throughout the grocery store, will now walk hand in hand or on her own).

    One thing we attribute an improvement to, is her diet. She is a picky eater, so that complicates matters, however ensuring that she eats whole foods, as much organic as possible (not dyes/food coloring or gmo's), has made a huge difference in her overall behavior.

    Another thing that has helped a lot is the integration (look up SIT) of 'positive' sensory experiences, into challenging situations. A perfect example is the fair. She loves rides, and will work through her social phobias or strangers, other children and loud sounds, if she is enjoying the rides. It seems that half the battle is building a positive experience as she has a fantastic memory.

    Lastly, what this page is really all about. SLEEP. Our experience has been that she's always been a light sleeper, until about the 7 or 8 hour mark...then she becomes a heavy sleeper. She no longer needs naps, and will sleep on average 11 hours per night...

    ...That IF she doesn't decide to wake up after sleeping 4-5 hours and want to play! This has caused many sleepless nights for us, and many subsequent afternoon naps for our daughter, which of course stretched bedtime the following night.

    She's slept through the past 3 nights though...after not sleeping through the previous 4 in a row. We tried a few things different...

    *No TV/screen time at least 3 hours before bed, and limit any TV during the day.

    *Nothing with any marginal sugar content in that 3 hours pre-bedtime window either. (surprising how much sugar is in yogurt and juice these days...)

    *Massages before bedtime. This has made bedtime much, much easier and helped her sleep much more deeply throughout the night. 5 minutes of moderate deep tissue massage has worked wonders.

    She already sleeps with some white noise in the background, and tighter fitting PJ's seem to help as well. These solutions may not work for all, and it took suggestions and experimentation to find the right combination/pre-bedtime routine for us.

    Stay positive. There is hope. It does get better.

    Jan 31, 2014
    our son has spd also
    by: Anonymous

    as well as gluten and dairy allergies so very familiar with a lot of what's being discussed on this page. Couple other recommendations that I know will help...it's a matter of when our son can cooperate and communicate well enough to implement them all.

    First is structural correction (not just pain management) chiropractic care...find a GOOD doc near you who will help not only make sure misalignments aren't causing any of the problems, but also help you understand how to get better in terms of diet, detoxification, etc.

    Elevation Health, AlignLife, Dr. Chestnut, Maximized Living are all practices that take the right philosophy to getting people better...but like medical doctors too, there are good and bad individual doctors out there. Find the good ones that care and will work with you to ADDRESS THE ROOT CAUSES, NOT JUST COVER UP THE SYMPTOMS.

    Toxins can be another huge contributor, but again, can't really be attempted until they're older and communicating well. We had huge issues with black mold that made me sick when pregnant and our whole family but didn't know until we moved out when our son was 1 year old and found it covering the air chambers on our mattress.

    Almost 1/3 of population can't process mold toxins and need to detox. Not too mention all the heavy metals in vaccines, fillings, toys, etc. and chemicals in all our household and personal care products and materials around us...all of that affects / can contribute to things like spd.

    Our son thrashes and can't communicate well so we're just continuing with the OT we started recently and I'm reading up on SPD. It's not necessarily something kids will outgrow though...I'm hoping our little guy will at least outgrow the severe dairy and gluten allergies, but with spd, we need to learn what works and doesn't work for him specifically and help him learn to regulate himself and cope with the world around him.

    God bless!

    Apr 16, 2013
    Worth a try
    by: Anonymous

    After over a year of our 4 yr old daughter waking around 2am, sometimes waking/ crying 5 times a night, we now let her drift off in her own bed, so she doesn't lose that ability, but then transfer her, while she 's sleeping, into bed with just mom. Now when she wakes during the very early a.m. she drifts back to sleep instead of fully waking to cry or get up. The household is getting some overdue sleep.

    I also brought her nursery rocking chair into her big girl bedroom and rocking helps lots of situations. She even lets me sing to her in that chair.

    Jan 03, 2013
    2 year old that Is unable to fall asleep
    by: mommy owl

    My daughter was diagnosed with SPD and PDD a few weeks ago. We are starting therapy next week - OT/PT/ABA/Speech.

    My daughter has never slept through a night or has never fallen asleep on her own, only in her real early infancy was she able to fall asleep at my breast but has never remained asleep.

    She is very hyper as a cause of her SDP and is unable to shut off and fall asleep. Here is what i was told makes a huge difference- gluten free diet and casein free diet- no dairy. I did not cut out the gluten yet but i did cut out the dairy 6 months ago and she only wakes up one time a night now vs. waking up every 2 hours and being up for 2 hrs. It was insane.

    Another thing that helped is to get a toddler carrier - like a baby bjorn but try INFINITO brand, it goes up to 40 pounds. My daughter is tight against me in the carrier and i walk up and down her room bouncing or sit in the glider and glide really hard. This allows me to get her to fall asleep in 2 hours, vs. like 4 hours. Yes, believe it.

    Try anything that keeps the baby tight and close to you. Try rocking/light shaking and a sleep noise machine- i use ocean sounds and nature. Give almond milk and coconut milk vs. cow milk if possible.

    Stay away from soy- hormones etc. BAD news. If you can commit to gluten free- DO IT. I am doing that next. Messes with kids brains that are on the spectrum. If you are reading this, please know that you are not alone. i often feel so alone in this world, i have nothing and no one but a sick little child that is my world, i know there are other mommy's out there feeling this very thing. Try everything you can. Rocking and holding tight really helps.

    Also give your baby a stuffed animal to hold, even ones that are weighted, like with the beads. I put it on my lil girls belly. She has CONSTANT BELLY PAIN - one of the common issues in kids on the spectrum.

    Best of luck and it does get better, they just out grow it.

    Feb 22, 2012
    Food dyes do cause sleep problems in some children
    by: Anonymous

    My son also never slept through the night until I cut out artifical food colors. It was so hard to believe that such a small amount of something could cause so many problems that I kept checking, and found it to be true. Since the "professionals" who work with my son (doctor, teachers) don't believe me I don't tell many people.

    Jul 17, 2011
    Food Dyes Stopped our Sleep issues
    by: Anonymous

    My story is long, but has a happy ending if you stick through it I promise :)

    My daughter with SPD (now 3.5) never slept through the night well to begin with, but at age 18 months began waking in the middle of the night (between midnight and 3am usually) and would then be wide awake for several hours. This went on for the next year and a half, several times a week. I was a zombie, and I felt like I was going crazy.

    Doctors and specialists would imply we were not being strict enough, etc.. and I wanted to pull my hair out because actually we have THREE children and I am a very strict sleep trainer and we had no issues with our other two children.

    Finally after actually breaking down at her pediatrician we were referred to a sleep doctor for testing, and then a sleep psychologist when that testing came back normal. We saw the sleep psychologist for 3 months and it got marginally better but then came back with a vengeance and I gave up on that course of treatment.

    We tried melatonin, sleep schedules, strict routines, cut out her naps,warm baths, cold baths, etc...seriously - we did EVERYTHING WE COULD. i even took her to a chiropractor in hopes that a more natural approach to her body's rhythms might aid us. It didn't.

    Then right after her 3rd birthday, I was at a support group for parents with children who has SPD and I was telling my story and a mom casually mentioned I should try cutting out food dyes. I had NEVER seen anything linking or accusing food dyes of sleep issues. But I was desperate and I tried it. Within 3 days she was sleeping SOLIDLY - 12 hours or more.

    When she DOES get her hands on dyes (red dye I think is the real culprit but I limit all of them), she wakes again. it can't be a coincidence. In the last 4 months she has put on more than 2 inches in height, 3.5 pounds, is eating better and has made such huge strides at OT, they are going to move her to every other week instead of once a week like we have been doing for 2 years now. She is like a different kid.

    I can not believe something so easy fixed this for us and that all the numerous specialists we saw never even mentioned it. In fact, her pediatrician rolled her eyes when I told her this. She still does not buy it, but I am a firm believer that the food dyes were our answer.

    I dont know if this is the answer for all SPD children suffering from sleep issues, but I know it has made all the difference for us and I wanted to share my story in case it might help someone else. Cutting out dyes has not even been hard. Giving up candy is the hardest part, but trader joes even has dye free gummy bears (expensive though!).

    For the most part, with enough shopping around and digging you kind find dye free version of almost anything nowadays. And make sure you check your children's vitamins and medicines (anti biotics included!). They were a hidden source of dye for us!

    Jun 10, 2011
    A comfort
    by: Anonymous

    I have a daughter with SPD, a confirmed diagnosis this week, 3.5 years its taken and not one period of sleep over 2 hours in that time. Its been really hard having a child who dosent sleep, but at least now I know its because she cant. I knew there was something not right in her generally but hugely impacted in the sleep area, things most people would do to settle a child I cant do. Every night is a juggle of temperature, light, noise, weight, time and even when its spot on for her to get off to sleep it might only be for 20-40 mins at anytime. Take comfort in knowing your not alone, and I hope you can get some help soon.

    Jul 06, 2010
    by: Anonymous

    Hope the problem Pritha had has resolved by now. I have a 20 month old son who fits almost all the criteria for SPD. He has not been sleeping for over a year now. It has affected his overall development and our family is miserable all the time. none of these techniques have helped.We are starting his OT next week . He is going thru language/speech therapy already. tried melatonin for a couple of days but it did not work either. don't know what else to do .Need help :-(!

    Jan 22, 2009
    "Huggy vest" helps my daughter sleep!
    by: Melissa

    My daughter is almost 3 and she has SPD. She has difficulty sleeping at night and is big enough to climb out of a crib, but she feels insecure in a toddler bed. To resolve the issue of staying in the crib (which gave her a sense of security), we purchased a "Cozy Crib Tent II" (you can find it on most online retailers for babies). It works wonders.

    Then, she learned to take off her clothes and diaper, then threw her poop across her bedroom at night. She would wake up 5-7 times per night and urinate on her bed, causing the whole house to wake up to fix the problem. She can't talk and uses minimal sign language, so she can't really tell us why she is doing these things. The only answer (which was approved by all of her OT/PT/neurodevelopmental specialists) was a denim wrap I sewed together which had Velcro in the back to close it. It goes from her chest (just under the armpits) to her lower abdomen. Then, I put 2 straps that attach in the front of her chest and cross over each other in the front, attaching with Velcro to the back of the wrap. Just make sure the wrap isn't too tight and won't restrict your child's breathing. My daughter finds comfort in the pressure provided by the wrap.

    Also, her doctors tried melatonin and finally trasidone to help her sleep at night because they think she may be waking up due to seizures. Please feel free to contact me for a more detailed design of the wrap if you would like to make one. It is easy to make (I suck at sewing!), and if your child is an escape artist like mine, you may need it at some point. :) missmelissabaker@gmail.com

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