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Sleeping Difficulties

Children with SEND are more likely to have problems sleeping than other children, often for multiple reasons. For example, children with physical health problems may experience pain and discomfort which can interfere with sleep, particularly if the health problem restricts clear breathing as in obstructive sleep apnoea. Similarly, chidren with sensory processing difficulties may be more sensitive to certain sensations, which may lead to distraction, distress, fear or confusion around bedtime and sleeping such as athe texture of their pyjamas. 

See below local services that may be able to offer support and advice on getting your child to sleep.

Scope's Sleep Right Workshop

CLCH Sleep Workshops

Advice for bedtime for children with SEND

If you have a child with additional needs and sleep issues, bedtime can be tricky. Here is some advice that may help if your child struggles to drop off or stay asleep.

• Explore reasons for your child’s sleep issues. Underlying reasons may include sensory processing difficulties, lack of understanding about night and day or medical issues.

• Record what is happening at night by using a sleep diary. Share this information with professionals to see if they can help you to explore why your child may have sleep issues and which might be appropriate strategies to try to improve your child’s sleep.

• Use visual clues to support your child’s understanding. Visual timetables can help to show your child what is going to happen next during the bedtime routine. This can make the evening calmer and easier for you and your child.

• Television viewing may hinder melatonin production so avoid any screens in the hour leading up to bedtime - this includes mobile phones and computer screens. Melatonin is the hormone that helps us to fall asleep and some research suggests that some children with SEND may not produce enough or may release it later in the evening. Replace TV with calm activities like completing a puzzle together or colouring.

• Review your child’s diet to ensure that they are not eating or drinking anything sugar loaded before bedtime.

• Ensure that your child is in a routine and put them to bed at the same time each night. It is also important to wake them at the same time each morning.

• Review your child’s bedroom and assess whether it is a good environment to promote sleep. If they are visually impaired or hearing impaired then sleeping in total darkness may be disorientating for them. Consider how their bed feels and whether it meets their sensory needs.

• Sleep problems can be complex and it is important to try to identify possible causes, these can include anxiety issues, behavioural sleep issues as well as medical factors. Ask your health practitioners for guidance make sure that you tell them about any unusual night time behaviours such as snoring, teeth grinding or night terrors too.

Click here to download a printable version of this advice

Cerebra Sleep Advice Service

Cerebra offers a variety of services for children and young people with brain conditions. 

Cerebra's Sleep Tips Booklet introduces and explains different techniques for you to try that may improve your child's sleep. It covers ten main topics including bedtime routines, daytime napping, comfort objects and moving bedtime backwards or forwards. It gives lots of illustrated hints and tips for putting the techniques into practice. 

Sleep Advice Service

Cerebra's dedicated Sleep Advice Service is here to help. Alongside our guide we also offer one-to-one telephone support.

If you have a question or query about our service, please email us at

Click here for self-referrals

Last Updated 01/02/2023

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