Help Sleepless kids Special Needs
Besides being a camp director, I also have my doctorate in Clinical Psychology. During my studies in NY, I became interested in in the study of sleep and later became a Certified Sleep Consultant. Helping families get the rest they need is extremely fulfilling and so important. As I began to work more and more with children with special needs – mostly those with Aspergers, ASD, ADD and ADHD, I learned that these kids have a greater incidence of insomnia. Every summer at camp, I’m reminded of HOW MUCH SLEEP our campers need. I tell my sleep colleagues that we’re likely the only residential summer camp in New England (or in the country!) that is quiet by 10:15pm!
When I teach other sleep consultants about working with “quirky kids”, I am very clear that although they seem to have a greater sleep need, they still benefit from all of the tools we use when we work with our other clients. Most importantly, all of us (including parents) need to have a very consistent sleep routine and we need to get to bed early enough to allow our bodies to get the sleep we need. We should wake up and rise at the same times every day – regardless of weekends! (This allows our natural body clocks, to be well established and in tune with the natural light cycles of our seasons.)
Here are some important tips for parents:
- Many of our campers have a great deal of Anxiety and need extra time to settle down – make sure that’s built into their schedule!
- Anxious kids benefit from help in “turning off” their busy minds – in order to help them do this, I love using guided meditations. The free app, Insight Timer, is wonderful and allows you to search for kid-friendly bedtime meditations for as short or as long as you’d like. (Good luck staying awake if you’re listening with your child!)
- Medications prescribed for ADHD and some other meds can interfere with the TIMING of sleep. It is very important to discuss sleep troubles with the prescribing physician to see if the time of administration or dosage needs to be adjusted later in the day to allow for an early enough bedtime.
- Our campers tend to be quite sedentary during the school year. Reading books and playing video games does not allow for children to get the exercise they need to expel all of their energy. Get them moving! Even just a walk around the block, a period of bouncing on a yoga ball, or some jumping jacks at least an hour before bed (best if it’s done throughout the day if possible).
- Get outside! Natural light really has an impact on our sleep cycles. When possible – even if you have to bundle up or grab an umbrella – get some natural light.
- Finally, turn off the screens. By now, most people know that blue light and sleep don’t mix. Don’t use devices for self-soothing at bedtime. Read a “real” book, listen to soft music or a podcast, or a meditation! Yoga Nidra is wonderful for children who need something more physical to help relax but please – don’t turn on your devices!