Winding down and preparing to sleep can be difficult for anyone. Turning off our brains and readying our bodies for rest is a struggle people of all ages often face. Kids are no exception. And for a child with a sensory sensitivity or anxiety, bedtime can be one of the most difficult times of the day.
Why Is It So Hard?
As parents, we often think “I’m exhausted. My kid is exhausted. Why are they fighting sleep? We all need it!” It seems counter-intuitive to our brains that a child would act against something in their best interest – getting the rest their brains and bodies need. Understanding why kids rebel to bedtime is one of the first keys in easing the process and smoothing the transition.
To begin with, kids see bedtime as when they are heading into the longest stretch of time that they will be alone and away from their parent or caregiver. This naturally increases stress and anxiety. Children need connection, they crave it. And putting them alone in a room heightens the awareness that they are without it. Play is also how children communicate at young ages. Having playtime end means their ability to communicate is ending.
Easing the Stress and Anxiety
For all kids to be successful at bedtime, the key is to minimize the factors that are heightening the natural stress and anxiety a child feels. Here are a few simple tips to help:
- Routine: Having a set bedtime routine ensures kids know what to expect. It removes any uncertainty. Bath, PJs, teeth brushing, story time, tuck-in, nightlight on, etc.
- Warm Bath: The warm water, combined with 1:1 attention, and simple bath play checks all the boxes to easing the bedtime process.
- Rocking: The simple back-and-forth motion of rocking naturally calms all the senses.
- Story Time: Letting the child pick the book transfers a sense of control and ownership over the bedtime process. This is another opportunity for connection and communication before alone time.
- Minimize Screen Time: Turning off screens at least 1-2 hours before bedtime removes these stimuli.
- Dim Lights and Soft Music: These help lower the sensory inputs.
- Tuck in Tightly: Wrapping the child snug in a blanket, like a burrito, applies a light, calming pressure around the entire body.
- Something to Hold: Either a stuffed animal, a squishy ball, or a soft blanket, provides a tactile input to squeeze, rub, or caress.
Finding the right mix for the nightly bedtime routine will help both parents and children. For real success, parents need to understand why a child is acting out and address those needs, then provide a consistency the child can depend on.
For help and additional questions on creating bedtime routines, contact our team.