Changing Colors: The Blog of Spectrum Pediatrics

September 15, 2016

Trick of the Trade from Ashley Glasser, MS, OTR/L, CEIM

Calming Sensory Strategies for Bedtime

Some children have difficulty falling asleep at night. This can be stressful for the child as well as the caregivers involved with the bedtime routine. There are a few sensory strategies that may be helpful for calming your child before or during their bedroom routine. As an occupational therapist I often talk about proprioception and vestibular processing. Deep pressure and rhythmic, slow input such as rocking helps people gather information about their environment while in a stressful situation. Neurologically, these movements are calming and soothing. These can be difficult terms to understand so here is how I typically explain this vocabulary to parents:

Proprioception: The sensation that orients us to our surroundings and lets us know how heavy things are. These receptors are in our joints, connective tissue and muscles.

Vestibular processing: The receptors in our inner ear that provide us the sensation helps us understand movement.

Here are a few proprioceptive and vestibular sensory-based strategies that can help a child calm down at night during their bedroom routine:

1. Hugs and snuggles are a natural deep pressure sensory strategies.

2. Use a weighted blanket. The increased weight provides more proprioceptive input.

3. Allow the child to sit or be rocked in a rocking chair.

4. Use a cuddle swing or a hammock to provide extra proprioceptive input.

5. Engage in joint compression activities right before bedtime such as: yoga poses (downward dog), hanging from monkey bars, somersaults, and other weight bearing activities.

6. Wrap the child up like a burrito.

Hopefully these strategies help calm your child during their bedroom routine! Sweet dreams!

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