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Practical sleep tips

Practical sleep tips

Do you dread the evenings instead of looking forward to a few relaxing, child-free moments? Do you feel like you’re going into battle as soon as you say it’s bed time? Read on for some occupational therapy tips for helping your little one sleep more soundly.

Us occupational therapists like to take a holistic approach to problems, as it is unlikely to be just one single thing creating an issue. We look at factors within the environment, the occupation/activity (in this case, sleep being the occupation), as well as the individual. Let’s go though some possible solutions for each area.

Environment

  • Create an environment that is calming and promotes sleepy feelings
  • Dim the lights or use a night light
  • Use scents that are associated with sleep or calm – such as lavender (experiment with different scents as everyone is different)
  • Ensure the bedroom is warm
  • Use comforters so the child feels secure – this could be a favourite blanket or soft toy
  • Use a soft, calm, and quiet voice throughout the bedtime routine (even if you may not feel calm yourself!)

Occupation

  • Create a consistent bedtime routine and stick with it. Use visual supports if needed – for example, a visual schedule or a social story with pictures
  • Give some calming deep pressure input before bed, such as a massage or tight hugs
  • Use heavy blankets or sheets tucked in tightly

Individual

  • Talk to your child and ensure there are no underlying fears or worries about going to sleep or worries about the next day
  • Do a guided meditation or progressive relaxation before bed
  • Read a story before bed, or listen to some calming music
  • Make sure your child is not hungry or thirsty before bed, and that they have some water in their room
  • Praise the small successes! Even if your child spends some of the night in their own bed, give lots of positive reinforcement

When our children don’t sleep well, we generally don’t either. Try to look after yourself and enlist the help of friends and family if you are struggling. Remember, change takes time, so make sure you give any new strategies a chance to work!

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