A: As a parent, I find one of the hardest things is getting my child’s sleep schedule down. I have read tons of books about how to get your child to sleep through the night in her own bed and it took me three years to have success.
The most important thing I learned is that there is no finish line; just when you think you have it figured out, something messes it all up – like a vacation, a cold, or daylight savings time. When it gets warmer out and stays lighter later, most kids’ sleep schedules are disturbed. It’s very difficult for young children to suddenly readjust their body’s natural rhythms after the time change.
One thing you can do to with Noah to help get his sleep back on track is to make sure he is getting lots of physical activity in his day: running, pushing, pulling, marching, crashing and jumping are all great and are all proprioceptive activities.
Proprioception is one of the senses: it is an awareness of both your body in space and the input into your joints and muscles. Proprioceptive input releases serotonin, the feel-good neurochemical in the brain and it will help calm your child’s system.
When you’re at WeeZee World have your child engage in as many proprioceptive activities as possible:
*Crashing into the foam blocks on the zipline (My child loves this – as does my husband!). My three-year old Lucy loves to build a giant wall with the blocks and then zoom into it with her body.
*Jumping in the bounce house or on the trampoline
*Swinging from the monkey bars
Another great way to help readjust Noah’s sleep schedule is to introduce an extended bedtime routine like the one I do with Lucy when she’s going through a tough sleep phase.
This special bedtime routine is a little longer and starts a little earlier than usual. Lucy and I start an hour before her bedtime, which is around 8:30. Make sure you start at the same time every night and keep the routine consistent.
If you know daylight savings or a vacation is coming up, prepare a few days in advance by doing this longer routine and following these steps:
1. Start with a warm bath. Fill it up so that Noah is submerged up to his shoulders, Use some lavender essential oil in the water. (Of course, never leave your child alone unattended.)
2. Play classical music in the bathroom while he is bathing. The music should be rhythmic and soothing; kids tend to like Mozart or Bach.
3. When he’s done with the bath, dry him off with a heavy warm towel that is just out of the dryer or has been sitting on a warm radiator. Give him a couple of nice, long bear hugs while you’re drying him off.
4. Massage him with lotion warmed in your hands. Hands-on deep pressure massage and bear hugs provide tactile input.
Tactile sense (the sense of touch) is the sensory system that receives sensations of pressure, vibration, movement, and temperature through the skin and hair. Tactile input decreases stress by washing away cortisol and adrenaline in the system.
5. When you’re done with the massage move into Noah’s bedroom and let him jump up and down on the bed or do jumping jacks, or have a pillow fight! Have some fun! Though your instinct may be that this will rile him up, this activity actually will have the opposite effect on Noah: it will calm him because of the neurochemicals being released.
6. Place him in bed and squish him all over with pillows – this is a great tactile activity. Read your bedtime stories and make sure he’s very comfortable with heavy blankets, pillows, etc. and say goodnight.
I know how frustrating and exhausting it can be when your child isn’t sleeping – because then you don’t sleep. Trust me, if you stick with the physical activity and are consistent with the nighttime routine, everyone will be sleeping within a few days. Good luck!
Source: The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun, Revised Edition: Activities for Kids with Sensory Processing Disorder by Carol Stock Kranowitz; Perigee Trade; Revised edition (2006)
Further Reading: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth; Ballantine Books; 1st edition (2005)