You have heard this before. From doctors and therapists and articles in waiting room magazines. From mattress salesmen and your mother. It’s the cure-all and the game changer.
That’s right – sleep!
And everything you’ve heard goes double for children with learning and attention issues. Sleep effects mood, organization, memory, and attention – areas that Complex Learners already find challenging.
Therefore, it’s worth repeating at the holidays – sleep is key. Of course, there will be parties and activities that push bedtime back for the night, but as much as possible, try to stay with your regular sleep schedule. This is important for Complex Learners who will be facing increased sensory stimulation, excitement, and changes in routines. If children are rested they have more resiliency to handle disappointments or situations that don’t go as planned. And with all the change in routine, having a bedtime schedule stay the same will actually feel comforting and safe to your child (despite the protests!).
Here are a few general strategies you probably know, but keep them in mind during this busy time of year:
- Exercise, exercise, exercise! Yes, you want to wear kids out so they will sleep – but more than that, children with sensory issues need that “heavy work” of movement to get their nervous systems regulated. If you see your child is restless at certain times of day, that may be a good time to introduce movement.
- Unplug before bedtime. No screen time, watching television or even reading in bed. All these things may cause arousal, not sleep.
- Use soothing sounds, music, and light. Experiment with different calming supports until you find ones that work for your child.
- Weighted blankets can be helpful for some children. Lighter or warmer pajamas, different pillows, and room temperature can make a difference as well.
And don’t forget about you! There’s a lot you are juggling, a million things to get done, and you’re going to need rest as much as anyone! So, my advice this holiday season? Get your sleep!
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Anna Johnson, Head of School at The Wolf School, is a devoted, passionate educator with more than 17 years of classroom and leadership experience. She holds a BA and MAT from Brown University and speaks locally and nationally on topics related to Complex Learners.