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Helping your child sleep

Photo: Sleeping problems can be common in deaf children.

Sleeping problems are quite common in deaf children and not knowing why your child is experiencing them can be frustrating. Don’t worry; you’re not alone. Here is a round-up of possible explanations, tips on how to help your child, and where to go for extra support.

Reasons for sleeping problems

There are many possible reasons why your child experiences sleeping problems, for example:

  • 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.
  • Things that work with getting hearing children into sleep routines such as music and story tapes may not work with deaf children.

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

If your child is frightened at night:

  • 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.
  • 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’re 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.
  • The British Tinnitus Association website has useful information about tinnitus in children, 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's 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

After you’ve tried these suggestions, you might find you still need extra help and support. Here are some useful websites and resources - although they’re not specific to deafness they do offer plenty of practical tips and advice.

Sleep:

Children with disabilities and special educational needs (SEN):

  • Contact has a useful leaflet about helping disabled children sleep.
  • Scope offers plenty of tips on sleeping, organises workshops, and works with individual families.
  • The Friendship Circle Blog features sleeping tips for children with special needs.

Support for children with neurological conditions:

Cerebra has sleep practitioners who can offer help and advice on sleep issues, some of which include settling problems, difficulty sleeping alone and early rising. However, 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.