6 Top Strategies For Sleeping Disorders In XO Kids

Sleep is an important part of everyone's lives. It is our body’s way of recovering after a long day of working and interacting. Well-known developmental molecular biologist John Medina, whose field of study focuses on brain development, says that we spend one-third of our lives sleeping, therefore getting enough sleep is important for everyone.

Sleeping is especially important to children ages three to eight as their brains are still developing. Children in this age bracket require seven to ten hours of sleep a day to both help them function better the next day and help their brains develop faster. While this is what each of us wants for our children, the reality for XO kids can be very different.

How Lack Of Sleep Affects Our Children

A great number of children with special needs often have a hard time falling or staying asleep, and this makes their symptoms worse. Children who experience sleep problems may have difficulty with fatigue, daytime sleepiness, impaired concentration and performance, and exacerbation of symptoms.

Ruth O’Hara, a psychologist and an expert on child development from Stanford University, says that sleep disturbances “impact cognition, mood, and it affects behavior.” John Medina reinforces this by saying that lack of sleep hurts “attention, executive function, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning, and motor dexterity.”

Different needs affect sleep in different ways. For example, children with Down syndrome have difficulty sleeping alone, while 80 percent of children on the autistic spectrum have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night. In a study published by PubMed in 2015, pediatricians and neuro-biologists concluded that the irregular circadian rhythm in children with autism interferes with sleeping well. Children with ADHD and/or hypersensitivity are commonly affected by insomnia. as they may easily be woken up by noise.

The US National Institutes of Health explains there are two internal biological mechanisms (circadian rhythm and homeostasis) that work together to regulate when you are awake and sleep:

“Circadian rhythms direct a wide variety of functions from daily fluctuations in wakefulness to body temperature, metabolism, and the release of hormones.  They control your timing of sleep and cause you to be sleepy at night and your tendency to wake in the morning without an alarm.  Your body’s biological clock, which is based on a roughly 24-hour day, controls most circadian rhythms.  Circadian rhythms synchronize with environmental cues (light, temperature) about the actual time of day, but they continue even in the absence of cues.

Sleep-wake homeostasis keeps track of your need for sleep.  The homeostatic sleep drive reminds the body to sleep after a certain time and regulates sleep intensity.  This sleep drive gets stronger every hour you are awake and causes you to sleep longer and more deeply after a period of sleep deprivation.”

When children do not get enough sleep, they struggle. Sleeping for XO children may be difficult, but there are many things you can do right away that can improve the situation. 

1. Keeping Track Of Recurring Problems

In a recent interview during the Autism Hope Summit, Alex Doman, founder and CEO of Advanced Brain Technologies and co-author of “Healing at the Speed of Sound” advised parents to keep a sleep diary. A sleep diary can be a simple spiral bound notebook where you keep track of the time your kids go to sleep, how often they wake at night, for how long, and at what times.

By gathering this data, you will be able to identify patterns in the sleeping and waking of your children and you might be able to identify factors that are contributing to problems in their sleeping. If your children are using sleeping aids, you can also use the sleep diary to keep track on the effectivity of these aids.

2. Establish a Reassuring Routine

Creating bedtime routines that are easy to follow will help your child better switch to sleeping mode. This helps children recognize social cues for bedtime. These routines can include pre-sleep activities like a warm bath, reading stories, etc. XO kids are very sensitive to set routines because it reassures them and gives them a clear roadmap to follow.

A good way to get their collaboration is to involve them in the process. For example, you can write out the routine and the time frame while discussing this with the child and ask them to contribute with ideas and suggestions.

A regular time-frame is important as it helps the body get ready to fall asleep at a certain time. When that cue is missed, it may take a full sleeping cycle (up to 2 hours) before the body is able to switch to sleeping mode.

3. Limit Screen Exposure

Using electronic screens before bedtime clearly impact how well children sleep at night. Therefore, exposure to smartphones and other gadgets that emit artificial light should be limited two hours before bedtime and completely avoided an hour before.

In his “Broken Brain” documentary, Mark Hyman, practicing family physician, ten-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, and advocate in his field, explains that The High Energy Visible (HEV) Blue Light emitted from all digital device LED screens – namely, iPhones, iPods, iPads, Samsung Galaxy and all smartphones, Kindle Fire and all tablets, laptop and computer screens – has been discovered to be a factor in sleep disorders caused by Blue Light suppressing your body's melatonin production.

Exposure to light also has an impact on how our brains respond to sleeping since our circadian rhythm is mainly dependent on light. If our bodies are exposed to artificial light at night, it messes up the body clock.

4. Turn the Bedroom into a Sanctuary

The environment and surroundings of children play an important role in helping them fall and stay asleep. Doman’s advises creating a sleep-inducing haven. Playtime and other activities must be limited to other rooms so that the bedroom becomes associated with bedtime. The goal is to create a safe and calm environment where the child can fully rest. Since XO kids tend to have sensory differences making it harder for them to fall asleep or stay asleep, creating an environment that is distraction-free, and noise-free can help them sleep at night.

5. The Softer the Bed, the Easier the Sleep

Make sure that the mattress that your child is using is comfortable enough: The mattress should give good pressure and good body support. Foam mattresses should be replaced every 10 years, but sometimes less as foam mattresses wear down easily, depending on the use. Invest in quality mattresses that will guarantee a good night’s rest for your child.

While there is a debate around off-gassing in foam mattresses in favor of natural latex mattresses, no health risks have officially been linked to off-gassing. However, it may be wise to do your research to see what chemicals are in your mattress materials, especially if your child has asthma or chemical sensitivities.

6. The Magic of Sounds

Many applications and meditation audios are available today. For example, in her famous meditation “Sitting Still Like a Frog,” renowned independent therapist and trainer Eline Snel gently guides children through a relaxation exercise, a great way to set them up for a restful night. 

Another example is Doman’s “Sleep Genius,” an application that improves brain rhythm for better sleep, making it easier for children to go to sleep and to stay asleep. Auditory sleeping aids rock the brain to sleep using a neuro-sensory algorithm that stimulates the vestibular system of the body, inducing what is called the sopite response. The sopite response, is a motion-induced drowsiness, a natural phenomenon that happens in the brain when parents rock their children to sleep. The algorithm in this application simulates this response in the brain, allowing children to sleep easier and better.

Sleeping disorders in XO children have taken a back seat in scientific research as scientists and parents choose to focus on more pressing matters, but it is important to remember that XO children need sleep as much as other children. Parents should not be afraid to reach out and look for solutions, whether they may be short or long-term. As we have seen here, there are various strategies to help alleviate sleep deprivation in XO children.

Please share with us what you tried and what worked so that others in our tribe can benefit from your experience!

A great horse will change your life. The truly special ones define it…

Beautiful Willow Sleeping...

One day my step son came to our house and told us his mother had taken him to see his doctor and his doctor said he had symptoms of Asperger’s. 
This was news to us and we had no idea what this even meant. He did not understand what that meant either. When I began to ask questions we did not find much for answers and felt like we had no idea what to do with our son.

He was even angry at the idea that he was labeled as having something wrong with him. I could tell he felt hurt and was eager to dismiss this new found label the doctor had given him.

What it really felt like to me is that the doctor just told him what was “wrong” and sent him on his merry way. No information, nothing to teach us how to help him and how to help him cope with this. We were lucky however to not get a prescription for medication.

He did struggle as a child and we naturally did our best to help him where we could but it just wasn’t enough. He had plenty of battles and struggles at home with his mother, at school and everything else he did.

The one thing I did notice was how comfortable and relaxed he was around the horses. He could mess about the barn all day cleaning things, helping us or holding a horse. He would often be off talking with the ponies and feeding them treats. He would go into the stall and just have a conversation with his favorite horse.

He was passionate about the horses, their care and helping us do whatever was needed to help out. The time in the barn was his escape from his home life and school life. He could just be himself and simply relax that not one horse was going to judge or control him. The barn was his place to just simply smile and have fun. He never had a meltdown when he was with the horses because he felt free in the barn to express him-self and just be.

It was truly a wonderful thing to watch him in his glory actually being so happy and content. He never wanted to leave the barn. Those horses loved him for who he was and he loved them back just the same. He got to feel what it was like to feel true freedom and be accepted 100%. He also was extremely sensitive to their needs and he always made sure we understood what the horses needed.

At the time, we just thought he was using his imagination to tell us what the horse needed but it was more than that. He was connecting to his own intuition to get that information. We did what he said even if we thought it was silly and it made him so happy when we listened to what he was telling us about the horse. 

He was really patient with them and so lovely and kind. It was a gentleness I had not seen in him before.  It was quite remarkable to watch him bloom into this new kid when he was around the horses. They automatically calmed him down and he was completely centered while with them.

In his day to day life , he was afraid of this label. He was picked on so much by the other kids in school because he was different. They really didn’t understand him and even we struggled with that too. In the barn with the horses there was nothing to understand and there was no struggle.

We believe the reason he loved the horses so much was because horses live in the here and now and accept us for who we truly are. They show us our greatness when we can’t see it ourselves. They give us the space to discover ourselves in a safe and inviting way. They open us up to all the possibilities we just couldn’t see before. They are our teachers, best friends and our healers. They allow us to release our troubles to them, we pour our hearts out to them and they just get it. They understand us and our kids in a way that no one else does.

Horses are our freedom guide taking us on a journey to discover who we truly are and to find our truth. When we discover our truth, there is nothing that can take that away from us and we become who we are meant to be. We are free to live with an open heart and allow our intuition come out to play. There just are no more barriers to overcome. 

Heather Lynn
Co-founder of Equine Energy Solutions and the EES Academy