How Sleep Helps Your Special Needs Child

How Sleep Helps Your Special Needs Child Learn and Grow

If your child suffers from jaw dysfunction, it can interfere with their sleep quality. Sleep is essential to proper growth and development. Kids need good quality sleep to consolidate memories, support healthy emotions, and recharge their bodies. Although jaw dysfunction can be problematic for sleep in children and adults, addressing bite issues can help them sleep better. Treatment of TMJ can even support the calming of ADD and OCD symptoms.

TMD or temporomandibular joint disorder (also called TMJ) occurs when a person’s jaw joint is not in the proper position. It can typically cause the jaw to make clicking or popping sounds. TMD can all lead to grinding, especially at night while sleeping, discomfort and pain, or severe headaches. However, in many cases, there are no visible signs of this condition. Naturally, if a person is grinding their teeth painfully at night, it will have a detrimental effect on sleep quality.

How Jaw Dysfunction Affects Sleep

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For many people with painful temporomandibular disorder (TMD), sleep quality is a problem. A study of TMD patients found that sleep quality was significantly impaired in TMD patients with dysfunctional pain. In fact, more than 60 percent of TMD patients have poor sleep quality.

Sleep apnea is becoming a more widespread problem in children, This is due to a dramatic increase in the prevalence and severity of obesity in children and adolescents. Treatment options for sleep apnea in childhood include CPAP therapy and TMJ surgery. CPAP therapy involves the use of a variety of devices to help a person to breathe regularly all night. Typically, an oral or maxillofacial specialist will handle TMJ surgery. You might go to a prosthodontist (an expert in dental prosthetics) or an otolaryngologist, an ENT (ears, nose, throat) specialist.

Why Kids Can’t Live Without Sleep

Sleep offers your child time to rest and recharge. Sleep is when children consolidate memories and new things they’ve learned, regulate hunger hormones, and restore their bodies. When children get enough sleep, their emotions are well supported. At the same, the sleep they do get needs to be quality sleep, including plenty of REM sleep. If all they manage is light sleep that is easily disturbed, this is not going to help.

When kids don’t get enough sleep, they may struggle with bad moods and find it difficult to concentrate. They’re at a greater risk of weight gain, trouble in school, accidents, and poor decisions. You may find them sneaking unhealthy snacks full of sugar during the day in an attempt to stay awake. Of course, this depends on their age and abilities.

How Treatment Helps TMJ, Sleep, ADD, and OCD

Children with bite issues may have trouble sleeping because this can cause blocking of the airways. Treatment for bite issues can open airways, support cranial bones, and make more room for kids’ tongues. This can help them sleep better.

With better sleep comes better emotional regulation, energy, and concentration. In this way, better sleep can help calm symptoms of ADD and OCD. It is amazing what a good refreshing night’s sleep can do, not just for those with ADD/ADHD/OCD, but for everyone.

Supporting Healthy Sleep for Your Child

Kids can’t live without sleep, so supporting good sleep is essential for your child’s health and well-being. Good sleep habits, clinical treatment, and lifestyle changes can offer relief for sleep struggles in children.

Treatment for jaw disorders is important for the management of pain and improvement of sleep issues. With treatment, children can sleep better because the right treatment will open their airways and there’s more room for their tongues. The better your child can breathe at night while they are sleeping, the more quality sleep they’re likely to get.

Healthy sleep habits can make it easier for children to sleep well. One of the most important habits is keeping kids on a regular sleep schedule. Next, you need to follow a consistent bedtime routine each night with them. Routines tend to build good habits and give your child something they can count on before they go to bed. This can be as simple as keeping to the same pre-bedtime routine including brushing their teeth and washing their face. Or for younger children, it could be reading them a bedtime story.

You should never allow children to have electronics in their bedroom, including late-night television. These tend to create a distraction, even if you turn them off, that will stop your child from going to sleep. The best sleep environment for children is a quiet, dark, cool, and comfortable. If necessary, you can put a dim night light in their room.

List of Benefits on How Sleep Helps Your Special Needs Child

Sleep plays a crucial role in everyone’s health and well-being, including children with special needs. Adequate sleep can have numerous benefits on overall physical and mental health, enhancing the quality of life. Here is a list of the potential benefits that sleep can offer to your special needs child.

1. Improves Focus and Concentration

Inadequate sleep can impair cognitive functions and reduce attention span. By ensuring your child gets ample sleep, you can help enhance their focus, concentration and the ability to comprehend complex concepts. This is particularly important for children suffering from ADHD and related disorders.

2. Enhances Memory

Children with special needs often have to learn and adapt to new skills, therapies and social environments. During sleep, our brain processes and consolidates the new information and experiences from the day, facilitating memory retention and learning.

3. Boosts Mood

Lack of sleep can lead to mood swings, impulsive behavior, depression, and anxiety. A child with special needs may already have difficulty expressing and controlling their emotions. Regular, quality sleep can help regulate these emotions, leading to a calmer and happier disposition.

4. Strengthens the Immune System

Sleep helps in producing proteins known as cytokines that are responsible for fighting infections, illness, and stress. For children with physical disabilities or those who are often unwell, good quality sleep can strengthen their immune system.

5. Aids Physical Growth

Growth hormone is predominantly secreted during deep sleep. This hormone contributes significantly to a child’s physical growth and maturation. It helps muscle mass growth and the repair of cells and tissues. This can be particularly important for children with special needs because they may face challenges in physical development.

6. Enhances Reaction Time

A well-rested child tends to respond faster to stimuli and has better decision-making abilities. This can be crucial for children with motor skill issues or physical disabilities as it can aid in their day-to-day functioning.

7. Promotes Healing

Sleep promotes the production of more white blood cells, reduces inflammation, and speeds up the process of recovery from illnesses or injuries. If your child undergoes regular physiotherapies or surgeries, good quality sleep can aid their recovery process.

8. Supports Healthy Weight

Adequate sleep helps regulate the hormones that control appetite. Therefore, children who sleep well are less likely to have weight management issues. This is particularly important for children with special needs as they may be on medication or have mobility issues that can affect their weight.

9. Enhances Social Interactions

Children with special needs, particularly autistic children, often struggle with social interactions. A well-rested child is more likely to respond positively to social stimuli, helping them enhance their communication and social skills.

10. Helps with Sensory Processing

Sleep provides the nervous system with a break from the constant barrage of sensory information and helps to reset and rejuvenate the system for the next day. This benefit is significant for children with sensory processing disorders, where their sensory information is processed by the brain in a way that causes them discomfort, pain, or confusion.

11. Fosters Learning and Development

The brain continues its work even during sleep. As part of its restorative function, the brain organizes and stores the day’s experiences during sleep, which enhances learning and retaining new information. For children with developmental disorders or learning disabilities, sleep can significantly aid in their cognitive development.

In conclusion, creating a stable and consistent sleeping schedule should be a key component in managing care for children with special needs. Additionally, maintain a relaxing pre-bedtime routine, ensure their sleeping environment is peaceful, and offer aids like white noise or weighted blankets for comfort if needed. Remember that every child is different and what works well might differ from child to child.

About Sara Westgreen

Sara Westgreen is a researcher for the sleep science hub She sleeps on a king-size bed in Texas, where she defends her territory against cats all night. A mother of three, she enjoys beer, board games, and getting as much sleep as she can get her hands on.

Tuck.Com dedicates their entire site to all things sleep-related. You can read dozens of product reviews and buyers guides. More importantly, the site has countless articles on sleep disorders and sleep health. Their goal is to “be your one-stop-shop for everything sleep.” You find information here that might help fill in any blanks in helping your special needs child get better sleep.


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