Why Isn't My Child Sleeping? They Might Be Overstimulated
For children with special needs, stimuli like light, sound, and even taste are more than just parts of life. They’re potential stressors that may need managed.
Overstimulation occurs when a child’s mind is processing too much stimuli at once, resulting in a feeling of intense distress and being overwhelmed. Overstimulation occurs very easily at night and can significantly impact a child’s ability to get the sleep they need.
Understanding why overstimulation occurs and what you can do to manage it is, fortunately, a relatively easy feat. What’s less simple is implementing change that actually works long-term, but devices like the Cubby Bed can do a lot to help.
Overstimulation and Sensory Issues In Children
Overstimulation is exactly as the name implies: a reaction to excessive amounts of stimuli. For children with special needs, overstimulation may be a regular, albeit incredibly frustrating, occurrence.
For a mind that struggles to manage high levels of input, - whether it be sounds, sights, words, etc. - overstimulation is nearly inevitable.
Think of the mind as an empty bucket and sensory input as water. As more and more input piles on, the mind inches closer to its overfill or breaking point. A full, overflowing bucket can’t manage any new input and struggles to make sense of what it already has; this sense of being overwhelmed past the point of control is a great way to describe how overstimulation can feel.
A neurotypical mind is subject to the same input, but it has a much easier time filtering out insignificant input - it can drain or adjust itself based on the situation at hand.
Overstimulation can cause such intense feelings of distress, frustration, and even anger that it may lead a child to lash out, misbehave, or otherwise express themselves in less than desirable ways.
Both sensory processing issues and overstimulation are common phenomena for children with autism and other special needs.
Signs of a Sensory Sensitive Child
Not all children who experience sensory issues have autism, and not all children with autism (or related conditions) have sensory issues. Regardless of your child’s background, it’s helpful to be aware of what the signs of sensory issues may be.
Generally speaking, a child who is overstimulated in some way might:
- Fidget excessively, rock back and forth, etc.
- Cover or plug their ears
- Experience a “meltdown”: this might involve movements like kicking or body flailing, yelling or screaming, etc.
- Shut down or become nonverbal
- Show clear signs of heightened anxiety, stress, or distress
Depending on the source of the offending stimuli and your child’s personal tolerance, reactions to overstimulation can vary. It’s best to keep an eye on your child’s specific reactions over time to get a better feel for how they are uniquely impacted by these challenges.
Child Sensitive to Noise and Sounds
A common culprit behind overstimulation is excessive noises, especially loud or sudden ones. Children who are sensitive to noises might have a hard time focusing or remaining calm in atmospheres with lots of people, talking, music, alarms, and more.
A sensitivity to noise can be especially difficult to manage at night. A silent bedroom can make all other noises -- a passing car, neighbors outside, dogs barking in the distance, etc. -- seem much harder to tune out.
Child Sensitive to Light
Light surrounds us during both the day and night time, but for children who are sensitive to it, it serves as a hindrance rather than a tool.
Light sensitivity can become problematic at night from passing headlights, streetlights, or even lit devices within a child’s bedroom like nightlights or alarm clocks.
Depending on the severity of your child’s sensitivity, it might be beneficial to invest in tools that keep their bedroom as dark as possible, like light-blocking curtains.
Child Sensitive to Smells
For some children, smells, whether they be natural or not, can be hard to deal with. Some smells can be comforting, but others can overwhelm the senses and make it hard to disconnect enough to fall asleep.
Child Sensitive to Touch
Sensitivity to physical touch and sensations is a common part of life for many children with special needs, but it can make getting comfortable at night a real pain.
Some children may be sensitive to certain types of pressure. Others might find certain textures to be irritating. In general, a sensitivity to touch means that only certain types of physical contact can be perceived as pleasurable.
If your child manages sensitivities to touch or texture, it’s especially important to curate a sleep space that takes these limitations into account. Otherwise, a restful night’s sleep might feel next to impossible.
How Can I Help My Child With Sensory Issues?
The best way to help a child with sensory issues is usually to treat said issues as the legitimately overwhelming and challenging obstacles that they can be. Take notice of signs of overstimulation in your child and do what you can to limit them in the future.
If your child is able to communicate their experiences with you, it’s a great idea to ask for their input on the situation. What sort of things tend to keep your child up at night? How do they feel when these instances occur?
Setting up an environment that addresses any sensory issues your child may have can go a long way, too. This environment isn’t just limited to the bedroom; it includes deliberate prep, too.
Bedtime Routine for Child With Special Needs
Incorporating a consistent and mindful bedtime routine into your child’s life can be very beneficial, especially if they tend to struggle to get a good night’s sleep.
A good bedtime routine can signal to your child’s brain that it’s time to settle down and get ready for sleep. Without a routine, it’s easy for your child’s mind to feel overly active and more susceptible to overstimulation.
Children with special needs manage all sorts of nighttime challenges, but feeling comfortable and calm in their room doesn’t have to be one of them. Treat sensory issues with the same care you would any other aspect of your child’s personal needs.
Safety Beds For Special Needs: The Cubby Bed
As much as you’d like to create the perfect space for your child to sleep all night long in, doing so can prove to be challenging, if not seemingly impossible.
After all, it’s not always easy to block out external stimuli; noise, light, movement, and more all surround us, and sometimes these stimuli exist outside of our control.
That’s where devices like the Cubby Bed come in. The Cubby Bed is specially designed to craft the ideal sleeping experience for children all of sorts, but its features are especially useful for those managing sensory issues.
With a mesh canopy enclosure to block out excess light, soft padding to minimize textural differences, and smart features meant to mimic or block outside stimuli, the Cubby Bed tackles many of the problems associated with sensory issues, all without sacrificing comfort.
The Cubby Bed also features useful monitoring tools for parents and families to keep an eye on their little ones without disrupting them throughout the night. High-quality cameras and microphones can give you a live look at what’s going on in your child’s room at any point.
The Cubby Bed’s design keeps children safe from elopement, falls and injuries, and entrapment. The bed’s ability to provide white noise or light means that it’s able to adapt to your child’s needs at any given moment, too.
Allow the Cubby Bed do some of the hard work of establishing a great sleep environment for you. This device is your one-stop-shop for all you’ll need to keep your child happy, healthy, and sleeping to the best of their ability.
With multiple financing options available to take advantage of, it’s more possible than ever to introduce these benefits into your home. The Cubby Bed is designed for your child, sensitivities and all.
Overstimulation is an unfortunately common problem for children with autism and other special needs. Luckily, there are steps parents and families can take to address overstimulation and help prevent it in the future.
Understanding what tends to overstimulate your child is essential, but so too is working to minimize these triggers in their sleep space.
Sleeping through the night can already be challenging enough for children, but when certain stimuli create an environment that feels stressful or overwhelming, the task becomes even more arduous.
If your child tends to get overstimulated, devices like the Cubby Bed can do a great deal to help. Ensuring that your child’s room is free of excess light, noises, movement, and textures can also be beneficial, as can working with your child to create a plan for managing feelings of overstimulation in the moment.
No matter what, it’s imperative to prioritize your child’s sleep. Good sleep is essential for all children, but it’s especially important for those with special needs.
Don’t let overstimulation rule you or your child’s life. Take control today with the Cubby Bed.