Importance of sleep for people with disability

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Sleep is an important part of living well and has direct impacts on your mental and physical wellbeing. However, this can be more difficult if you live with disability, since some disabilities can have an effect on your sleeping patterns.

Key points

  • People with a neurodevelopmental disability commonly have sleeping problems
  • For a person with disability, having additional sleep issues can potentially exacerbate symptoms of a disability
  • It’s recommended you get seven and a half hours to nine hours of sleep each night

Health benefits of sleep

Getting shut-eye has a myriad of health benefits for your body and mental health.

People with a neurodevelopmental disability commonly have sleeping problems or sleep disorders. Even certain medications can impact sleep.

It’s necessary to take action when your body is starting to tell you things are not okay, whether that’s through long nights of little sleep or feeling constantly tired.

Sleep is an essential part of physical recovery for your body, including supporting brain development, cardiac function and body metabolism.

If you don’t get enough sleep, it can be difficult for your body to repair any cell damage overnight or give your immune system a rest.

Additionally, poor sleep can have an effect on memory, mood and behaviour, and will impact your ability to concentrate and retain information.

For a person with disability, having additional sleep issues will result in fatigue, sleepiness, poor performance and can potentially exacerbate symptoms of a disability.

Having a good night’s sleep can help keep depression or other mental illness at bay, or manage them better.

Think of sleep as like charging your phone. If you are constantly running at 10 percent, you are not going to be able to get much done through the day, and if you do, it will all be rushed.

How much shut-eye do I need a night?

It’s always recommended to get seven and a half hours to nine hours worth of sleep every night.

But it is important to gauge how you personally feel in the morning. Do you feel well-rested? Or do you still feel tired throughout the day?

Make sure to check in with your body and how it’s feeling so you can deal with any underlying problems that may be causing poor sleep quality.

Down syndrome and sleep

Children and adults with Down syndrome have a high likelihood of having sleep problems.

This includes poor sleep quality and reduced overall sleep time, less deep sleep and more sporadic awakenings during the night.

Children with Down syndrome can also experience bedtime anxiety, or may even be resistant to going to bed.

Common sleep disorders of a child with Down syndrome include sleep talking, sleep apnea, bedwetting, insomnia, rhythmic movement disorder and night time teeth grinding.

A large percentage of children with Down syndrome have sleep apnea due to physical factors from the disorder.

It’s important to get on top of sleep apnea fast for a child with Down syndrome, because it can become quite deadly if a child has reduced oxygen in the body, causing brain damage and aggravating congenital heart defects.

Autism Spectrum Disorder and sleep

A large majority of adults and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have problems with falling asleep or remaining asleep.

A child with Autism can experience abnormal “circadian” rhythm, mental health issues like anxiety or depression, or epilepsy, which can have a big impact on sleep.

ASD medication can also have a bad effect on sleep patterns or even cause daytime drowsiness.

Since Autism already has an influence on behaviour, adding in poor sleep can have a direct impact on a person with Autism’s concentration, mood and behaviour.

Children with Autism have a large likelihood of developing a sleep disorder, like insomnia, bedwetting, nightmares or night terrors.

Tips for improving sleep

The best options for improving sleep for a child or adult with disability is to make sure you maintain a routine for bed.

Try making the bedroom an idle environment for sleep and avoid any food that may impact sleep or cause hyperactivity.

Implementing relaxation methods or downtime, like meditation, can help with preparing your body for night time. This includes reduced computer or phone screen time.

If you are starting to feel exhausted every day, visit your GP or any medical professional to see if there may be an underlying health problem impacting your sleep.

What do you do to make sure you get enough sleep? Tell us in the comment section below.

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