Getting the best sleep possible

Children with brain injury can experience difficulties with their sleep routine, which can affect their fatigue levels. We’re looking at sleep hygiene.

A child sleeps
  Sleep hygiene is the term used to talk about good practices and habits that optimise sleep at night-time. Sleep, behaviour and mood problems are often reported by parents after an acquired brain injury (ABI). And sleep disturbance in children with brain injury can have an effect on function and participation. We heard from The Children’s Trust’s Brain Injury Community Team (BICS) about how important good sleep hygiene is for children with an ABI and here we have collated information from our sleep pages with key information from BICS. “Sleep is not always seen as a priority which is perhaps because it’s seen as something that can’t be changed,” said Izzy Baker, Specialist Speech & Language Therapist. Problems with sleep include not being able to get off to sleep at night, being disturbed throughout the night or waking up properly in the morning. Establishing a good sleep routine is important for children with brain injury and steps you can take include:
  • Try not to let your child overdo it during the day as being too tired can make it more difficult to sleep.
  • Try not to allow too much sleep. Sometimes napping can be better than an extended sleep and lie-in.
  • Try to keep regular hours. Get your child to bed at the same time each night and get them up around the same time each day, if possible.
  • Try to make their bedroom somewhere they go only when they want to sleep. It’s best to avoid watching TV or playing computer games in bed as blue screen impacts the child’s ability to fall asleep. Electronics should be switched off an hour before bed.
  • Noise and light reduction at night-time.
  • Avoid sugary drinks and snacks before bedtime. Try milk and/or a banana instead.
  • Avoid homework or high energy activities before bed-time. Try to create a relaxing environment where your child can unwind.
Parents can keep a sleep diary to help raise awareness of sleep patterns and changes. Cerebra has a sleep guide that covers all aspects of sleep hygiene, gives strategies for various sleep issues and offers resources. If a child’s sleep problems continue without intervention this can then impact on parental wellbeing and decision-making. Parents/children may need to be referred to a sleep disorder specialist for accurate identification of the sleep disorder. Cerebra have a sleep team that you can contact for support over the phone. Simply fill out their online form and they will arrange a telephone consultation with you. Giving parents the confidence to deal with sleep issues can improve the situation. Izzy said: “It takes time to build a routine and to see the positive outcomes by achieving good sleep hygiene. As a child changes or gets older you may need a new approach but the main principles will be similar.” You can find information on fatigue, sleep and relaxation and read more about sleep deprivation issues and the help you can get. You can also read sleep tips shared at The Stroke Association’s Parent Support Day.
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