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Sleep tips for children with special needs

Did you know that in the later stages of sleep are a restorative time for your brain? During deeper sleep stages, your brain is not only generating new cells, but it is actually strengthening the bonds between the cells to make a stronger network. Cell restoration is also occurring during this time. Later in your sleep cycle, the brain is actually taking the time to organize itself -- "throwing out" junk information from the day, and "saving" new data.
"If I get my child to bed earlier, won't he/she wake earlier?" Answer: no. Getting your little one to bed earlier each night will help them fall asleep faster, stay asleep, and wake up more rested. Kids who are put to bed too late are often going to bed "overtired", and have more difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. By going to bed earlier, we are getting them to sleep as their energy levels dip in the evening, and not when they are starting to rev up again. If your child is used to waking up at a certain time in the morning, it doesn't mean that the day will start earlier because they are going to sleep earlier. With the earlier bedtime, your child is going to sleep at the most natural point in the circadian rhythm and that means that they will be waking as their energy picks up again.
Have you ever been told to drop naps so that your child sleeps better at night? What a myth! By keeping your child's nap(s) during the day, you are preventing putting your little one to bed at night overtired. Babies and toddlers need a rest during the day in order to make bed time go much smoother. Also, their circadian rhythms dip a different times of the day depending on age. By getting them to nap at the right times, it helps to keep their bodies and circadian rhythms in check. It also gives moms and dads a little break time during the day as well. Remember to keep that in mind!
Infants by far need the most amount of sleep! Infants need anywhere from 4-5 naps during the day and will go through shorter sleep cycles at night. They are getting a lot of stimulation during the day, and the brain needs slightly shorter, but more frequent bouts of sleep to gain the energy that they need.
Babies learn at an astounding rate -- their brains are like sponges and it's in the first few years of life that they learn the most! By giving a consistent bed and nap time routine, your baby's brain and body will start to learn when it's time to fall asleep and how to go into "shut down" mode for the night. The more consistently this routine is followed, the easier it will be for your child to fall asleep. Same is true for older children and adults! Following the same list of activities before falling asleep each night can even help you to sleep better. It's just easier when you are younger 🙂
After the 3 month mark, babies sleep starts to consolidate more during the night and the day time as well. Around this time, your baby should be sleeping at least 5 hours at night before waking up. During the day and as your baby gets older, naps begin to drop in frequency but become a bit longer. Wake time in between naps also begins to increase. It's important during wake time to give your baby lots of good "play" time - physical activity, stimulation, and more so that they will ready for the next nap that day.
We all have our own ways of soothing ourselves to sleep -- sleeping on one side of the bed, on your back, side, or stomach. It's important that your child learn to fall asleep with the right kind of prop, meaning nothing that they are dependent on you for. Many babies learn to fall asleep only if they are rocked, breast fed, swaddles, etc. However, they need you for these things. When parents are ready to have their child sleep on their own, taking this prop away can be difficult. But, that's what they have learned -- they NEED you to fall asleep. Good props are things like pillow and blanket (depending on age), or a toy or lovie that they associate with sleep. It's important that they fall asleep on their own and learn to soothe themselves.

Sleep Help for Kid on the Spectrum