A good night’s sleep can make a huge difference in a person’s mood and alertness, as we are all aware. Researchers continue to find even more benefits to regular sufficient sleep, while at the same time discovering the consequences of lack of sleep. This is especially true for children with ADHD and autism, who are much more likely to struggle with sleep than their peers. While research continues, there are several strategies that parents can try, some of which can be greatly aided by a special needs camp experience.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has determined that children need between 9 and 12 hours of sleep per night, while teenagers require 8 to 10 (Paruthi et al, 2016). That can be a challenge for any family, and even more so when autism or ADHD is involved. Difficulty with transitions, hyperactivity, distraction from bedtime routines, and the effects of certain medications can interfere with getting to bed on time. Anxiety and possible problems with digestion or circadian rhythms can also affect sleep.
This lack of sleep can magnify issues related to ADHD and autism. According to an important recent study, this includes decreased attention, increased opposition and decreased cognitive speed (Becker et al, 2018). This can in turn exacerbate anxiety, hyperactivity, social functioning and rigidity, to name a few. Clearly, our children with ADHD or autism would benefit greatly from sufficient sleep.
While researchers continue to learn more about sleep, they are in agreement about a number of things parents can do to help with good sleep hygiene. These include:
- Establish a consistent bedtime routine and sleep and wake times
- Ensure daily exercise, preferably in the afternoon
- Avoid heavy meals within 2 hours before bed
- Avoid screens for the last hour
- Move to quieter activities close to bedtime
- Use the bed only for sleeping
A special needs summer camp can help children establish good sleep habits, which parents can then carry over to home. The advantage of a camp is that it is a new environment, so children expect new routines. A good camp has solid routines around all daily activities, including bedtime. The daily schedule is set and adhered to by all, so there is peer influence to follow it. Camp provides plenty of exercise all day, before moving to an early dinner and quieter evening activities. Campers eat healthy food, drink lots of water and usually have no access to screens at all.
It takes about three weeks to establish a new habit. Whether a child is at camp for that long, or parents continue the “camp routine” at home, a special needs camp can play a crucial role in improving a child’s sleep habits, and therefore improving many other areas of their life.
Troester M. Recommended Amount of Sleep for Pediatric Populations: A Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Shortened Sleep Duration Causes Sleepiness, Inattention and Oppositionality in Adolescent with ADHD: Findings from a Crossover Sleep Restriction/Extension Study.
Author Bio- Shawn is a passionate health blogger. He served as a volunteer in a peace corps in Africa. Because of his passion toward writing and helping others, he started his career as a writer with Talisman summer camps where he now works as a content manager. He is a regular volunteer at the hospital for special children, when he is not working or volunteering at the children’s hospital, he likes to fishing with his father.