Sleep and Children With Special Needs

Sleep and Children With Special Needs

It is worth saying again that sleep is so important for the development of children! A child who has received enough rest or slept is happier and able to focus more easily in their learning environment.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the recommended amount of sleep every 24 hours (including naps), is as follows:

Infants 4 to 12 months: 12 to 16 hours
Age 1 to 2:       11 to 14 hours
Ages 3 to 5:     10 to 13 hours
Ages 6 to 12:    9 to 12 hours
Ages 13 to 18:  8 to 10 hours

When it comes to children with special needs, many do not obtain these recommended amounts. For instance, parents often report that children with Autism or ADHD do not sleep as much as their peers. And, in addition, they may have a very difficult time falling asleep at night. Once parents see the doctor to rule out a medical cause, they can try implementing these simple sensory solutions to help the child feel calm, centered and able to sleep:

1. Completing heavy work before bed. Carry large cushions or laundry baskets though the house, or pull a wagon filled with toys.
2. Sleeping under a heavy comforter or blanket.
3. Adding a “massage” to your child’s bedtime routine. Use lotion then apply it the the child’s arms, legs and back with slow, firm, continuous strokes. Speak quietly and with a soothing tone.
4. Listening to music. Play relaxing classical or instrumental music for the hour before bedtime or adding some simple “Finger Rhymes” to your bedtime routine, like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and the Itsy Bitsy Spider.

The Occupational Therapists at Delaware Speech and Hearing Center can make suggestions customized to your child’s unique personality and needs. If you have concerns about your child’s development, please call us at 740-369-3650 or email us at

Written by Amy Gabel, MS, OTR/L, Occupational Therapist, Delaware Speech and Hearing Center

Check out our last blog: Strengthening Families Initiative at Willis Education Center

By |2018-09-20T01:43:23+00:00September 20th, 2018|Education, Occupational Therapy|1 Comment

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