7 Sensory Strategies for Improving Sleep

Many children have trouble falling or staying asleep, especially children who have sensory processing difficulties.

If you are looking for ways to help improve your child’s sleep, try the following strategies:

1. Shut off screens 30-60 minutes before bedtime. Research suggests that shutting off phone, tablets, and the TV at least 30 minutes before bed helps improve sleep.

2. Try a white noise machine. Some research suggests that white noise machines help people fall asleep faster and can help them stay asleep. Depending on the machine, soothing noises like static, ocean waves, crickets, and rain can help drown out background noises that may be bothersome when trying to sleep.

3. Try a weighted blanket. Weighted blankets help provide proprioceptive input to the body and can be calming and relaxing. It is suggested to start out using 5% of a child’s body weight and going up to approximately 10%. You can buy weighted blankets through various stores or websites. You can also look up DIY techniques to save some money!

4. Try a compression sheet for the bed. Fun & Function offers a “Snuggle Sheet”, which is a soft sheet that provides light compression. Children who like hugs or deep squeezes may respond well to a compression sheet as this also provides proprioceptive input and can be calming. You can research and find a compression sheet that suits your child’s needs, or also explore DIY techniques to save money!

5. Try a deep compression massage before bedtime. Sensory Seekers, or children who are constantly “on the go” tend to crave proprioceptive input. Take a few minutes to give deep pressure to the arms, legs, and back. This may help calm and relax the body before bedtime.

6. Try diffusing essential oils. Though research is limited, diffusing 100% pure therapeutic grade essential oils have shown to help improve mild sleep issues. Lavender is the most popular oil known to be calming, but you can also try cedarwood, vanilla, chamomile, and bergamot.

7. Try a bed tent. Bed tents are made to fit over your child’s mattress, and provide an enclosed but well ventilated space for sleeping. Some children may feel more comfortable in a smaller, enclosed space. It may also help block out any natural lighting in the room.

-Marla Griswold, Occupational Therapist