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Experts’ Views on Sleep for Children with Additional Needs

by Tina Goldsmith 21/02/2020
child sleeps peacefully wrapped up in Snuggle Sac

By definition, families of children with additional needs – children who may have a disability or present characteristics associated with the autism spectrum – will face extra challenges in some areas of their care. We asked two experts for their advice on bedtime strategies and bedding for children with additional needs.

It is well documented that sleep deprivation can cause a wide range of difficulties for both parent and child including: lowering of the immune system, behavioural issues and underachievement in education. Vicki Dawson, founder of The Children’s Sleep Charity and an expert on children’s sleep said:

“Research continues to show that almost 40% of children experience sleep disturbance at some point in their childhood, however this increases to 86% of children with special needs.”

In 2016, The Children's Sleep Charity was funded by NHS England to pilot sleep workshops aimed specifically at children with additional needs and their families. 

“Ten workshops were carried out in Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire and we reached 56 parents and 76 practitioners. The workshops provided the families with information around sleep cycles, why sleep issues may occur, how to develop a good bedtime routine as well as focusing on creating a calm bedroom environment.”

A great deal of research has been done to understand how a child’s behaviour and sensory issues can affect their sleep patterns, and how the lack of good quality sleep can, in turn, accentuate the behaviour which is disrupting the sleep cycle. Lauren Allen, a Consultant Behavioural Analyst who provides support for families with children who have additional needs told us: 

“From my experience, children on the autism spectrum who struggle with sleep tend to have sensory regulation difficulties. In these cases, gentle massage and cuddles seem to calm the nervous system promoting sounder sleep. Some children love the feeling of being wrapped up and cocooned in a soft sleeping bag.”

Over the years, Snuggle Sacs have been supplied to families with children who have additional needs with a great deal of success. Certain children respond well to the tactile outer fabric, the soft cotton lining, the feeling of being secure and tucked in, and of having something portable and fun which is familiar to them.  

Every child is unique. And finding the bedtime routine that works for your child is a journey. For the families of children with additional needs that journey may be longer, but it is worth persevering and seeking expert help where necessary to attain the goal of a good night’s sleep for all the family.

The Children’s Sleep Charity have a number of leaflets full of tips for an effective night's sleep for your child that are free to view or download from their website.

Our range of Toddler Snuggle Sacs has a 15% discount until the end of February.