20 Apr Best Way to Get Your Child Ready for Bed
Bedtime can be a bit stressful for the whole family. Your child may need help calming his body down, because it may not come naturally to him.
Self-regulation tends to be difficult for children with autism. Here’s what I mean. You know what your body needs to calm itself down when you are feeling overwhelmed. This may include: taking deep breaths, working out, reading, watching TV, or even drinking a glass of wine. When you start to feel stressed, you know how to access your personal strategies to regulate your body. You may not actually do these exact calming strategies, but overall, you know what you need to calm down.
Your child needs assistance figuring out how to regulate his body.
Here are some ways that you can help your child relax so he is ready for bed.
First, TURN OFF ALL ELECTRONICS AT LEAST 2-HOURS BEFORE BED. This includes any device with a screen, and yes, even the television. I know that this can put a damper on your evening routine, but screen-time has been proven to negatively affect sleep patterns.
Play calming music to help your child’s body relax. When choosing music, keep in mind that people respond differently to sounds. Songs that you find relaxing, may actually be overstimulating for your child. Just take note when playing music before bed, to figure out which songs work best for your child.
Be aware of lighting. Start dimming down the lights around an hour before bed. Create a calming atmosphere so that your child can unwind.
Be aware of scents. Do not light smelly candles at bedtime. Besides the fact that many scented candles emit toxins, your child may become agitated by different smells. He may not even realize what is bothering him, but try to steer clear of aromatic candles. Diffusing lavender essential oil can be calming for some people, but you will have to test it out with your child. If you use essential oils, be sure to use a 100% pure therapeutic-grade essential oil, to ensure that there are no additional additives. (Read all warning labels when using oils, as they are not FDA approved).
Read to your child, or encourage him to read. Reading books and magazines can tire out your child’s eyes. Listening to a story can be incredibly calming for him. You can even switch it up and read to him every other night, and have him read to himself on the nights in between.
Encourage movement about an hour before bed. Exercise affects people differently. I have learned that I can’t do Zumba or lots of cardio in the evenings, because then I have a difficult time sleeping. However, movement and exercise may actually calm your child down. Trial and error is the best way to figure out what works best.
Take note of foods and drinks that your child is consuming. Limit sugary foods at least 2 hours before bedtime, including fresh juice and fruits. Some children love milk before bed, but this too may negatively affect his sleep. The best way to figure out how different foods affect your child is to take data of what he ate and keep a record of his sleep patterns.
Get your child on a routine, and stick to it! Your child thrives off of sameness, structure, and routine. Be sure to start unwinding at the same time every evening, so that your child’s body gets used to relaxing before bedtime.
With any strategy, it’s important to try different things, take note of what works and doesn’t work, and stay positive through it all. You will find something that works, and hopefully your child will start sleeping better at night. If you find that sleep is a continued problem in your home, I recommend mentioning this challenge to your child’s physician.