Is sleep a struggle?

Article source: The Adopt South West Co-Production Group

As an adoptive parent, is sleep a struggle for your child?

Reading messages from our support group we know how difficult this time of year can be as the clock changes and the loss of light moves routines, medication time slips and the slightest routine change at home and school can have a massive impact on sleep and regulation.

Here are some things that work for us, where we felt this space would be a good place for parents to share ideas:

For us it was a combination of things that worked better together…

  • We use a sensory sheet which gives a gentle squeeze throughout the night but without the overheating risk of a sensory blanket that should never be used for long periods. I have linked the sheet further below.
  • We start our bedtime routine at tea time where I draw all the curtains in the house to induce the natural making of melatonin, the hormone in the brain that supports sleep.
  • We do tea with the TV on (to keep my child focussed and at the table!) but keep on gentle programs.
  • We tie a ‘sensory band’ or  a ‘theraband’ around the legs of the chair so that he can push into it with his feet to get sensory feedback (this is good practice recommended by Sensory Integration Occupational Therapists)
  • We do not brush teeth at night as this can trigger sensory system to be on alert
  • We go upstairs where I would have already sprayed a lavender pillow spray on sheets and in room (sounds crazy but when you are sleep deprived you will try anything and for us this really works big time as the senses are the key to trigger the amygdala brain into sleep… the sense of smell is one of the most powerful)…
  • In very difficult times we have also used a pop up tent when our son was most bouncy and struggling where we put it in his room and he took ‘control’ by putting his teddies all around him, we popped a small camping light (very dim) in with him… this seemed to get him into a pattern of ‘safe’ sleep which it seemed worked well as it was ‘womb’ like. He has had in-utero trauma so I was initially unsure it could work but he loved it, however our other son who had similar pre-birth experiences will not go near it…. so I guess it depends on the child. The sensory sheet helps in the tent as we placed a mattress in with him as he used it well for months. It helped him set a pattern of sleep which is now gradually transferred to his bed.
  • We let him have his iPad sometimes when I know he is not going to settle where we have child restrictions on it so again he selects gentle things to watch like Bing Rabbit or Bluey (he is nine-years-old but still likes these programmes luckily).
  • We have used a light show in the room (similar to those you might have for a toddler… he loves the rhythm of watching the lights curl around the room which send him to sleep… a miracle!
  • We used this children’s meditation CD by putting it on as leaving the room for a number of years which worked like magic, at £3 it was well trying!
  • This great book that supports older children understand why the body needs sleep.
  • And not forgetting a sensory sheet and lavender pillow spray

If you are like me where I felt like I was never going to get my evenings back; don’t give up hope, keep trying different things and asking for help from others.