My Best Sleep Strategies for Pogo Stick Kids

Sleep strategies toolbox

Do you have energizer bunnies in the middle of the night?

Sleep strategies became one of our creative survival skills as we reared children with neurodiversity (ADHD, FASD and incredible sensory issues).  As a baby, our daughter slept fretfully. As a toddler she once fell and we took her to ER, the team said she would heal, no stitches and gave her sleep medication to help her sleep – when we returned home she bounced on the bed until 5 am!

As preschooler and through elementary school we survived sleep walking and night terrors escorted by canine companions. Our canines became our co-workers in helping us dare to sleep. As a teen it grew into late night dangerous walks, talks and window jumping. Her biological system allowed her to remain awake for six days straight. It almost killed us! As an adult who exasperated a night hospital team for six nights, she finally received a medical cocktail that allows her to sleep without nightmares and awake rested. She was 22. Fetal Alcohol is not kind to it’s recipients.

Nuzzle - Love Between A Boy and His Service Dog by Donnie Kanter Winokur
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  1. First… YOU KNOW YOUR CHILD and his or her needs.
    For the child who needs to move wear them outwear them out I repeat – fun and laughter and sunshine and water and dirt and play during the daylight hours. Running and jumping and fun after school or being overwhelmed in learning new things. Play – let them play and redirect their pent up energies into joy. Provide a sensory environment they can exude in!
    For the child who needs solitude to regain their energygive them a refuge – create a place of meaning for them – filled with their favorite hobby or activities. Provide a sensory safe environment to soothe in. Let them pour themselves wholly into it for a period of time before dinner. This is their time to regain strength and empty their mind from the day.
  2. Then… A healthy meal
  3. And then… begin to build in household peace – slow soothing peace. A majority of children and adults with FASD have sleep disorders, for our daughter she can remain awake for six days! For some it is over-sensitive to stimuli in their environment, which may cause them to wake up or have trouble falling asleep, for others it is a mind and body that simply will not shut off and for others it is a mind that wakes up frequently with a startle all night long, never reaching full rest.

Capture the natural opportunities to produce melatonin by creating an environment for healthy sleep.

Bringing calm to a household of atypical children can be difficult. By developing a sleep transition system you provide your children a lifetime strategy to learn to calm, rest and gain sleep.

Sleep strategies that made a difference for our family
We have the kid that can stay awake even as an adult for six days! )

  1. Limit distractions – finish family routines do not energize the kids during this time this is the beginning of shutdown – picking up, putting things away, making lunches, setting out clothes for next day before dinner. By doing this earlier while the kids are still energized it begins to focus them for the next day. Electronic basket collects the things we will not be using for the rest of the evening as a family – cell phones, video games, remotes, whatever?
  2. After dinner bring out the calming activities like legos, puzzles, coloring. Dim the lights throughout the house. Close the curtains and shades to shut out the outside noises.
  3. Diffuse calming oils – like lavendar, cedarwood, geranium, vanilla, sage – discover with the person you love what is calming and soothing. Your child may have a keen sense of smell so check with them on what smells are calming and soothing.
  4. If you are still using electronic items begin shutting off blue light (cell phones, television, computers) two hours before going to bed and change sounds in the home to quiet music or soft nature. Move to a warmer spectrum of lighting. Blue light (which is the light we have during most of the day limits our production of melatonin, in the absence of blue light, melatonin production increases and we get sleepier. (Read more about blue light)
  5. Shake the “zingys” off – we found rapidly waving the hands, kicking the feet or shaking the whole body helped move energy. “We cast off the troubles of the day.” All the yuck fell off… or at least we tried.  If you have night lights this is the time to engage the children to tip toe and slowly turn them all on while turning house lights off or dimming them mouse quiet.
  6. Prepare a warm bath with a chamomile, lavender, sandalwood scent and let the child soak while you write your to do list for the morning and then leave it!
  7. Dim the lights.  We had a BETA FIGHTING FISH in a night lighted tank in the bathroom that was always alert to protect children padding in to go potty in the middle of the night. If you are staying in the bathroom while the children bathe, use a scented candle and dim the lights. I put the candle away when I am done and hide it.
  8. Tumble the towels and pajamas in the dryer to warm and wrap a child. Drying with a warm towels helps in the transition of leaving the bathtub and warm pajamas help in the transition from towel to bed clothes. Make sure all tags are off of sleep clothing and bedding is soft. Socks are the inside out or rightside in as the individual prefers.
  9. Focus the picking – If your child has a picking issues – work together to discover a fidget that helps (may be stuffed animal, frayed blanket or pillow – just be prepared to allow it to be picked)
  10. Practice some gentle slow stretching – help your child find stretches that are soothing.
  11. Read and snuggle or listen to an audio books kind, happy story with child in bed with a soothing voice.  (Goodnight Moon and Nuzzle: Love Between a Boy and His Service Dog). We found a number of gentle reading places – the hammock in the summer, the porch swing or rocking glider, a snuggly day bed, bean bags and puppies, a tent bed or into their room. Settle in the critters – stuffed animals, service dog or pet dogs, dolls, cats – into proper places. Slow rocking or swinging can be calming before bed and can address vestibular processing needs. Note: some children need very empty rooms – for others these are marvelous. Click to see children’s tent and trundle beds | some great hammocks
  12. Soft circle touches or brushes from knee to toes, elbows to fingers and on face – clockwork circles beginning at the 6 o’clock help to soothe (children with sensory issues may need different kinds of touches – some days our daughter wants light friction or deep pressure – she usually has an idea of what will help her best.)
  13. Mist the monsters. We use a spritzer with lavender, chamomile, sandalwood, or sage to scare out whatever might be in the closet or under the bed.
  14. Give a day of thanks. We say prayers. This final quiet time is for remembering all the good things in the day and being thankful and asking for protection for all the people we love – prayers in our house could take a while because even neighbors dogs or the tree squirrels could be added. As we continued to give thanks “for everything she could think of” I slowed my speech and softened my voice to a whisper as another of our sleep strategies.

Depending on the rules in your home – ours was unless you need to potty after prayers you wait until the sun comes up to get out of bed – in the summer THAT could be early! And as a late teen she became more creative in her approach to her own sleep strategies—phone, roam, not home.

Mom and Dad’s Sleep Strategies.

  • I write in my journal or read before I fall asleep or at least quietly eyes closed rest.
  • We listen to the news in the morning not the evening
  • I leave a to do list on my desk which includes a worry list
  • If I need to worry about something – it will be just where I left it in the morning.
  • We listen to a book on tape and snuggle.
  • Yes, and we let the fur creatures cuddle in too,

A few more thoughts on sleep strategies:

  • Use a different area of the house for time out if that is a discipline you use, do not use punishment in the bedroom. We discovered “TIME IN” was a much better approach – meaning if I was working on something – I had the child doing something productive alongside of me.
  • Sensory stimulation may occur due to weight of blankets, temperature of home, smells, wind through window, sound of rain or traffic outside, dog barking, cat meowing. Sometime ear plugs, head set noise suppressor or white noise like fan may help.
  • Routines are important – first we do this – then we do this and after we do this… Keep the routine the same on vacations, holidays and weekends as best you can.
  • Consider a sleep study if your insurance will cover it – it will give you an idea of the reality your child/adult lives with most nights of their lives.

Using Canines as sleep strategies

  • Animals also may help in calming – we had three large male standard poodles – 65 – 75 and 90 pounds and they all packed into the bed together – talk about deep pressure and weight – Yikes! They also became her night terror escorts – two on each side and one in back – they kept her on a straight line screaming right to our bed.
  • Deep Pressure Therapy is calming for children with proprioception issues with seeker traits.
For our parenting balance:
Sleep strategies became more inportant for my husband and I as we grew older with our children. As our kids grew older and into teens and now adults we set a firm rule – mom’s phone is unavailable from 9:00 pm – 7:00 am and if you need something you will have to call dad – if they get into trouble while we sleep we will deal with it and whatever systems have discovered them after we are rested – we value our time to recover from the previous day. Now mind you there have still been the 3:00 forgotten prescription pick up or banana run, discussion with 7:00 ER teams, and a variety of other unmentionables – but after surviving major physical set backs as we got older, we had to put our sleep first if we were going to have the energy to cope with the next day’s adventure.
Need some more family and kid calming ideas besides sleep strategies read Johan’s Calm my Best Weapon to Handle my Kids
All my best…
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6 thoughts on “My Best Sleep Strategies for Pogo Stick Kids

  1. Barbara says:

    Thank you so much, so incredibly helpful! I really like warming the towels/pjs. We do this in the winter, but it makes sense to do it all the time . My daughter cannot handle having a dog, so we use a body pillow, and she piles stuffed animals all around her. We were blessed that her sleep improved as she got a bit older. Sometimes she needs Melatonin. We have a book, and lullabye music. She does wake at times, but returns to sleep. She is up before six every day, which is hard, but it used to be four am when she was young. I find she needs a minimum of ten hours sleep, or I see issues the next day. Thanks again Jodee, for all you do!

  2. Mary Ann Bunkowsky says:

    This is a great article Jodee. I just finished reading Healing ADD by Dr Amen and he talks about the importance of sleep and the brain. Both my boys have had sleep studies and use a natural turkey enzyme (Tryptophan) to help them sleep. They themselves created the habit of lots of stuffies/stuff animals in bed. I got them both duvets which they love. Vanilla is the sent we use in there room with a white noise machine. We get pretty good sleeps in most of the time but not around any times when they are excited i.e. upcoming birthdays etc. or scared seeing a show or video that scares them. Prayers and saying thank you to God is very useful. You can’t be worrying, scared or angry if you are thankful (gratitude is the best attitude).

    What I like best about your article is when you remind us that caregivers need sleep too. This is something I started taking seriously for my husband and I after reading Dr. Amen’s book. No more late nights doing house work or working on my computer etc. Straight to bed once the boys settle and I wake my husband from in front of the TV to come to bed too!

  3. Pingback: Light Sensitivity may affect life more than you think. - Realmindz

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