Sensory Regulation and Sleep Patterns

One question I often ask parents when I suspect a sensory regulation issue is “how does your child sleep at night?”  This is because our ability to process sensory information can also affect our sleeping patterns.


Children with sensory processing issues often have difficulty with sensory regulation.  Sensory regulation refers to our ability to calm or excite our neurological system.  Children with sensory regulation issues often have symptoms such as hyperactivity, distractibility, difficulty with transitions, and frequent or extensive tantrums.  This is because they have a difficult time calming themselves when they need to.  They may take an extensive amount of time to fall asleep, have trouble staying asleep, or don’t sleep long enough.


Some ideas to try at home that may help your child be able to calm are:

–          Have a structured bedtime routine (first brush teeth, then change for bed, then get into bed and read a book before falling asleep).

–          Try to keep bedtime as consistent as possible.

–          Turn the TV and electronics off before bedtime.  These can be very visually stimulating to children that have sensory regulation issues and may cause them to be upregulated.

–          Keep lighting low, especially in the bedroom.

–          Try calming aromatherapy such as lavender, jasmine, or chamomile.  High quality essential oils will be more effective than cheap scents which may provide very little if any real benefits.

–          Try some slow, heavy work activities before bedtime.


Not every technique will work for every child.  Trial and error is the best way to determine which techniques are best for your child.  Also, keep in mind that sleep issues may not be related to sensory issues – it is possible that sleep disturbances could be caused by a medical issue so be sure to consult your pediatrician to rule out any sleep disorders or medical causes.


Bio: Andrea is an occupational therapist who earned her Master’s Degree in Health Sciences from the Medical College of Georgia in 2006.  Her areas of expertise include autism and sensory processing disorder (SPD).  She currently owns her own private home-based practice in the North County San Diego area and is passionate about providing humane, effective treatment based on the most current research and treatment practices.  For helpful techniques, tips, and information, follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. To find out information about how to qualify for services with her, visit her website at

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