Common Sleep Issues Experienced by Children with Cerebral Palsy

Sleeping problems are, unfortunately, a very common concern among children with cerebral palsy (CP).  In fact, up to 46% of children with CP experience mild to severe sleep problems, according to research published by the  National Institutes of Health.  While some sleep issues include having difficulty falling asleep, others revolve around the inability to stay asleep for the recommended periods of time. Although some children who experience sleep concerns can rectify their sleeping patterns on their own, others necessitate a number of lifestyle changes to be made. Apart from following a healthy diet, making sure the child’s bed is as comfortable as possible and establishing a  calming bed time routine can all be of great benefit.

Encourage a healthy diet

Children with CP are at an increased risk of poor nutrition as many experience difficulty with chewing and swallowing. A child that is hungry or that has consumed  copious amounts of additives may find it very difficult to enjoy a night of sound sleep. A balanced diet filled with plenty of fruit, vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs can help a child not only fall asleep easier, but stay asleep for longer as well. Children living with CP will more than likely need some degree of assistance throughout their lives. Apart from encouraging a healthy diet and comfortable sleep, having a  cerebral palsy life care plan drawn up can be of immense benefit. This type of a plan contains important directives with regards to the physical and financial needs of the child in question.

Make the bed as comfortable as possible

Children with CP often find it very difficult to get comfortable in most settings, including their beds. While your medical specialist or physical therapist can give recommendations with regards to mattress type and sleeping positions, it often takes a significant amount of trial and error to get it just right. A comfortable mattress that offers adequate support is of the utmost importance as is cosy bedding. Depending on the severity of the child’s disability, a bed with cot sides may be a good investment as it will prevent your child from falling off the bed and getting hurt. Apart from a comfortable bed, it is also important to ensure that the room is not too warm or too cool and that light and sound do not cause a distraction.

A calming bed time routine is essential

Children with CP can benefit greatly from a calming bed time routine. A host of stimulating activities shortly before bed time is bound to result in a very restless night and a tired, grumpy child the next morning. Avoid a bedtime routine that includes watching TV or playing video games, opting instead to read a bedtime story or listen to relaxing music. A  warm bath and a soothing massage can also go a long way to help a child calm down prior to falling asleep.  Try, where ever possible, to adhere to the same routine every night. This includes going to bed at the same time so that your child can get the recommended amount of sleep to help boost physical health and cognitive improvement.

Sufficient sleep is of the utmost importance to a child. By taking the necessary steps a child living with CP can get the much needed sleep they desperately need.

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