The Link Between SPD and Sleep Problems

Unfortunately, Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and sleep difficulties often go hand-in-hand. This is a serious issue for several reasons, not the least of which is that sleep quality affects mental health. In honor of Mental Health Month, we’re looking at the link between SPD and sleep problems. After all, there can be no good mental health without the basics, like adequate rest and recovery.


Sensory Processing Disorder is a neurological condition where the individual does not properly process sensory input. For obvious reasons, this can impact sleep quality. And poor sleep can produce a whole host of other issues. For more details on SPD, check out our blog What is Sensory Processing Disorder, and What Does it Mean?


Why Does Quality Sleep Matter?

You’ve probably heard it said that sleep affects many different aspects of your life. In truth, sleep is so critical that if it’s neglected, not much else in your life can thrive. We’ve all experienced fatigue and frustration after a rough night’s sleep. Now imagine if that was your everyday starting point!


Poor sleep has been linked to the following:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Poor immune function
  • Poor concentration
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Poor performance at school or work
  • Irritability, depression, and anxiety


The CDC recommends the following amounts of sleep (including naps):

  • 11-14 hours of sleep for 1-2 years of age
  • 10-13 hours of sleep for 3-5 years of age
  • 9-12 hours of sleep for 6-12 years of age


If your child has SPD and poor sleep quality, you’ve probably already noticed the negative impact, whether you realized it or not.


Identifying Poor Sleep Patterns

Many children have sleep problems from time to time. But consistent poor sleep quality can lead to decline in every other area of life.

Indications of poor sleep in children include:


  • They take longer than 15-20 minutes to fall asleep
  • They cannot fall asleep unless someone is in the room or in the bed
  • They are generally restless, changing positions frequently
  • Sleep patterns are inconsistent, such as 5 hours one night and 11 hours the next night
  • Waking up in the middle of the night on a regular basis
  • Getting less than 7-8 hours of sleep on a regular basis


It’s common for kids to have sleep issues from time to time. But if you notice your child experiencing any of the above on a nightly basis, then they aren’t getting the rest they need to function. This can affect their mood, mental health, performance, physical health, and more. 


Tips for Better Sleep

Fortunately, there are many ways parents can help their kids get a good night’s sleep. And with the proper amount of rest, you can see a big improvement in your child’s mood, behavior, and state of mind.


Helping your child have a peaceful night might require some trial and error, but the effort you put forth will more than pay off as your child benefits from getting what their body needs.

Consider sensory issues


There might be factors at play you haven’t thought about. Explore whether your child finds their pajamas uncomfortable, doesn’t like the feel of their sheets, or needs complete silence when falling asleep. Or, maybe they need pressure and can benefit from a weighted blanket. You might be surprised how a little change can make a big difference.

Create a winning routine


Bedtime victory may very well depend on your evening routine. Consistency is key, especially for kids with SPD. Every child is different, but consider the following: eat dinner 2.5 hours before bedtime to allow digestion, brush teeth early since many kids don’t like it, and transition to quiet time before bed with activities like reading, singing a song, and hugs and kisses.

Make changes slowly


Whether you’re moving your child’s bed, getting rid of the night light, swapping out the sheets, or trying a new weighted blanket, introduce changes slowly so you can monitor the results. If you change five things at once, it will be hard to know which modification was the solution. Keeping a journal can be helpful: jot down what changes you’ve made and how they appear to be affecting your child’s sleep.

Conclusion: SPD and Sleep Problems 


Remember, it’s normal for kids to resist changes to their regular routine. Things might get a little bit harder before they improve. Talk to your child about why a modification here or there might improve their sleep, helping them feel happier and healthier during the day.


As always, the Sensory Scout family is here to help! Our vast network of parents is always available to offer tips, encouragement, and support with whatever you’re facing. Plus, we’re dropping new sensory solutions all the time to help your kids live their best lives.

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