Sleep and your blind child

By Charlotte Mellor

Sleep and new born babies can be difficult for any parent. There are many different routes you can take to work with your child to develop a healthy sleeping pattern.

Sleep in babies who are born with a visual impairment can be increasingly problematic. This is due to the effects on the natural occurring hormone Melatonin. When light and dark cannot be effectively perceived, problems ensue.

Every living thing has a circadian rhythm. It is the primary activity of the brain during early development of children. Circadian rhythms, which are also known as the sleep-wake cycle, are regulated by light and dark. These rhythms take time to develop, resulting in the irregular sleep schedules of newborns.

The hormone Melatonin is high at night and low during the day. Its secretion is regulated by a rhythm-generating system, which is in turn regulated by light.  Children who have a visual impairment perceive light and dark differently. This is where problems can arise above the usual new-born sleep pattern processes. Melatonin rhythms are altered in a variety of circadian rhythm disorders.  Sleep is very important to everyone’s health. But as a visual impairment can affect a rhythm that you can normally create over the first few months of a child’s life, you may need to adopt some different techniques or seek the advice of a medical professional.

If you would like to find out more about the ‘science’ behind it all here are some useful links:

https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/sleep-disorders/role-melatonin-circadian-rhythm-sleep-wake-cycle

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/melatonin-and-sleep

https://thesleepdoctor.com/2017/06/06/understanding-melatonin-melatonin-can-help-sleep-bio-time/

What sleep training regime you adopt for your child is a completely individual choice and there are a variety of methods you can choose from!  If you believe your child’s sleep issues are becoming unmanageable or having a significant impact on their health, you must seek advice from a trained medical professional.  They may be able to prescribe melatonin as a medication to help your child’s sleep patterns improve. This can come in either tablet or liquid form and can be fast acting or slow release.

Take some time to examine your child’s bedtime routine. You need to take full advantage of their other senses when letting them know it is getting close to sleep time! Smells, sounds and touch can all be utilised to trigger a bedtime routine.

Here is a great post written by a parent for wonderbaby.org on how to manage none-24 circadian rhythm disorders:

http://www.wonderbaby.org/articles/sleep-schedule

What ever strategies you choose to adopt, ensure you are making the most or verbal and physical cues. Implementing a calming pre-bedtime activity will help get your child mentally prepared to get some rest.

Good Luck!

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