Helping your deaf child get a good night’s sleep

Sleeping problems are quite common in deaf children. Not knowing why your child is experiencing problems can be frustrating, and leave you unsure of how to help. On this page you can find possible explanations, tips on how to help your child, and where to go for further information.

There are lots of possible reasons why your child may be having sleeping problems, such as:

  • It can be frightening for a deaf child to be in the dark with no vision or hearing. Hearing children can be soothed by their parents’ voices or other sounds but this isn’t possible for deaf children.
  • If your child uses hearing technology, they may not like the quiet when it’s taken out at night.
  • Many deaf children’s balance relies on their inner ear and their vision, so in the dark the child may feel particularly disorientated.
  • Some deaf children have tinnitus which can be loud and intrusive at night time.
  • The things that work with getting hearing children intro sleep routines such as music and story tapes may not work with deaf children.

Once you’ve thought about which of the above reasons may apply to your child, there are things you can do that may help.

If your child is frightened at night...

sleep problems deaf baby (credit: NDCS)

  • Leaving a hall light on can help.
  • Try rotating light mobiles that make patterns on the wall or ceiling.
  • Glow in the dark stickers or a nightlight can focus their attention elsewhere.
  • You could leave a piece of your clothing with them so they are left with your familiar smell.
  • Tell them when you’re leaving the room so they don’t get worried when they realise you’ve gone.

If your child doesn’t like taking out their hearing technology...

  • If they are old enough, you could remove it for them once they’ve fallen asleep.
  • It could be left on the bedside table so they can put it back in if they wake up and feel scared.

If your child has balance issues...

  • It may help to tuck them in tightly so that they feel ‘grounded’.

If your child has tinnitus...

  • Make an appointment to see your family doctor (GP) as tinnitus is often caused by a temporary condition that your GP can treat.
  • Visit the British Tinnitus Association website where there is useful information about tinnitus in children, and technology and therapies that can help manage it.

If you’re struggling with routines...

  • You could use a picture diary on your child’s bedroom wall showing the bedtime routine – bath, story, kiss, bed – and take each picture off the wall as it is completed.
  • Make sure you do the same thing every time your child wakes up in the night, such as settling them back to bed with a soft toy, a hug or a song.

How to get more support

sleep problems deaf child (credit: NDCS)

After you’ve tried these suggestions, you might find you still need extra help and support. Here are some websites and resources you could look at (please note they are not specific to deafness):

General information
The National Children's Bureau has produced an information booklet about sleep.

The Children's Sleep Charity provides free training workshops for parents and professionals.

Support for children with disabilities and SEN
Contact a Family have produced a useful leaflet about helping disabled children sleep.

Scope carry out workshops, work with individual families, and provide online tips.

The Friendship Circle blog brings together 30 tips to a good night’s sleep for children with special needs.

Support for children with neurological conditions
Cerebra have sleep practitioners who can offer help and advice on sleep issues, some of which include settling problems, difficulty sleeping alone and early rising. Please note they only work with children who have a confirmed neurological diagnosis.

Support in Scotland
Sleep Scotland provides support to families of children and young people with additional support needs and severe sleep problems.

Talk to other Parents
NDCS members can post a question to other parents on our Parent Place forum.

Like our Facebook page and talk to us and other parents.

Join the NDCS Facebook group run by parents.