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Department of Human Services

Sleep Awareness Week 2016 – positive sleep practices for children and adolescents with developmental disabilities


Sleep Awareness Week occurs this year from Monday 4 July to Sunday 10 July.

Sleep disturbance is common in more than 80 per cent of children and adolescents with developmental disabilities, and can have a large impact on the entire family.

Disturbed sleep affects daytime behaviour, learning and health and can range from minor, temporary problems to serious sleep disorders such as sleep-related breathing difficulties.

Child and Youth Services (CYS), within the Department for Communities and Social Inclusion, has a specialist sleep consultant and experienced therapists trained in providing sleep support. They work with children and young people with disabilities and their families to provide a comprehensive sleep assessment and develop an individualised sleep plan.

Sleepwise is a program offered by CYS to eligible clients. Parents and carers can attend educational workshops discussing typical sleep, positive sleep practices, sleep disturbance and strategies to reduce sleep disturbance. Professional support is provided over several months because a child's sleep pattern can be slow to change and sleep plans may need to be modified.

Positive sleep practices for children and adolescents with developmental disabilities include:

  • Daytime naps need to be geared to the child's age and development. Very long naps, extra naps or naps in the late afternoon can result in sleeping difficulties at night.
  • Exercise and spending time outside during the day can help children sleep.
  • Avoid large meals close to bedtime. A small healthy snack before teeth cleaning may help the child settle to sleep. Avoid foods with caffeine (such as chocolate) for at least four to six hours before bedtime. Reduce, or eliminate, overnight eating or drinking.
  • Keep the hour before bedtime for relaxing. Too much exciting activity can keep a child awake (over aroused).
  • Establish a predictable and consistent bedtime routine of around 30 minutes. This should include calm activities such as quiet play or a bath. The last part of the routine should happen when the child is in bed, such as reading stories.
  • Restrict TV viewing and use of technology in bedrooms.
  • Provide a comfortable bed 'nest', that is warm-to-cool in temperature and has a reduced noise level. Make the bedroom as dark as possible. Use a night light if needed.
  • Aim for the child to fall asleep by themselves in the same place in which they will sleep all night.
  • Open the curtains in the morning to signal it's time to wake up.
  • Be consistent – make sure parents and carers all use the same routines and teach the same positive sleep habits.  

You can get more information through Child and Youth Services by:

For more general reference information on sleep, visit the Sleep Health Foundation website.

State Government of South Australia © Copyright DHS .

Provided by:
SA Department for Human Services
Last Updated:
05 Jul 2018
Printed on:
14 Dec 2018
The DHS website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia Licence. © Copyright 2016