Sleep and sensory integration difficulties commonly co-occur. Good sensory-rich strategies can significantly improve sleep habits and routines, making life easier for everyone. Lack of sleep not only makes us more grumpy, but we also make more mistakes when tired and we even get colds and flu more easily. For young children, poor sleep interferes with learning and development.
To go to sleep children and adults need to be relaxed and calm and the brain needs to know all is safe to close your eyes and listen less.
Routines are one way to tell the brain. “Nothing is happening” – all is OK, just the same as yesterday. Putting in place a new routine can be tricky and results are not always instant but a few sensory tricks can help make it easier.
The kinds of activities we do when not under threat add to this message that it is OK to sleep. Listening to a story cuddled up close to a parent or sat close snuggled up to a partner is not indulgent time – it tells the brain that someone else also thinks it is safe out there. Like animals that live in social groups, we trust others to confirm our own perceptions about the world.
A warm bath, being curled up in front of a warm fire or lounging about in dappled shade on a hot summer afternoon all relax us. Our breathing slows and when this happens we feel even more relaxed. The sensory signals all saying the same thing means our brain is again reminded it is safe out there and sleep becomes more possible.
A warm familiar drink, familiar story or piece of music can all add to this sense of safety. For some people, another way of feeling calm and content is weighted bedding.
Whether it is just the heavy rug Granny lovingly crocheted, a quilt, a weighted blanket or the …., all might help give calming deep pressure touch and sometimes when we wrap ourselves up or roll into and pull the covers up tightly muscle stretch input (aka proprioception). These two types of sensory input are known to help us feel calmer and more organised.
see www.hunrosa.co.uk for access to assessment in Cornwall