Success for your Child with a Disability: Great sleep for an even better day!

by Melissa Doman

Your child is doing a lot -- school, therapy, visiting countless specialists, and more. And, your child already has to work just a bit harder to make that next step, say that next word, keep focused on the task at hand. It can be exhausting!

Having worked with families like yours for over 10 years, I know the power of a good night’s rest. And, there are both short term and long term benefits. Here’s what a great night’s rest can do for your disabled child:

  1. Tantrums become much easier to handle and happen less! When your child is better rested...they’re in a better mood! Studies have shown that just two nights of poor sleep can greatly increase feelings of stress, anger, frustration, anxiety and more. In addition, tantrums can lead to “sensory meltdowns”. But, when kids are sleeping well, the sensory areas of the brain can process information and regulate easier. These kinds of meltdowns decrease significantly.

  2. Kids are better focused. Many parents during and after completing a sleep program with their child will tell me that therapy sessions and/or school are going so much better than before. Their child can stay better focused, doesn’t get frustrated as easily, and finally achieves abilities they’ve been working on for a while. It is a huge relief to parents (and therapists) to see their child finally succeeding for the first time in a while.

  3. Kids start to develop abilities. When a child with a disability starts to get good quality sleep night after night, the brain starts to make connections that it never has before. And this makes sense! At night, the brain organizes, saves memories, and cleans over and over again. Your child can finally process all that information they receive during the day and that’s when things start to click. Parents will report to me that their child will start saying more words, trying new foods, understanding speech, and more.

  4. Kids will physically grow. For many children, weight gain and physical growth can be big concerns for parents and doctors alike. When we sleep at night, our body is naturally producing growth hormone. It may take some time to see, but parents will write to me months afterwards saying their child is physically growing, putting on weight, and making physical gains they’ve waited a really long time to see.

  5. Parents can be the best parent they need to be. Being a parent for a disabled child, there are a lot of additions to your job description. As your child’s parent, nurse, dietician, advocate, lawyer, therapist - you also need to be firing on all cylinders. Once their child is sleeping better, parents feel like themselves! They have time to spend with their partner at the end of the day, time to read that book on the nightstand, catch up on a show, and get the 7-8 hours of sleep they need. You deserve that time to yourself, and when your cup is full at the end of the day, you can be the very best parent for your child the next day.

Despite these amazing benefits, many children with disabilities have a hard time getting a good night’s rest. Whether they take hours to fall asleep, can’t stay asleep, or start their day way too early, these problems chip away at the rest they so desperately need.

And, you may be reading this at 3am desperately searching for the answers to get your child just a few extra hours of sleep at night. I understand how frustrating it can be to see your child so exhausted day after day, and barely have the energy to keep your family in sync. And, because of your child’s additional needs, sleep tips online just don’t seem to fit what your child can do.

Your child with a disability has all the potential to learn how to sleep great. It takes some simple tools, patience, and consistency, but your child can be sleeping better. To learn more about sleep help for your child, visit

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