|Sleeping and children with Cerebral Palsy|
Though sleep may be a challenge for any child, a number of features characteristic of cerebral palsy contribute to difficulties in this area. Constipation, drug side effects, the irritations of hospital visits and the supportive devices can all contribute to a reduction of healing deep sleep. The excerpts below offer some advice on how to wrestle with this issue.
“I was frustrated to find that my experience of a sleepless, unhappy baby was not uncommon. Furthermore, I discovered that his constant constipation was also experienced by a lot of children who have cerebral palsy. If someone had told me that these problems were associated with CP, and not due to my inadequate mothering, I might have cottoned on to remedial action a great deal sooner.
If your child is stiff it is quite likely that she will get uncomfortable at night an wake more frequently than a baby who does not have disabilities. On the other hand, floppy child or one who is taking barbiturates to control fits may seem lethargic and appear to be an overly ‘good’ baby. I have spoken to mothers who have been concerned about providing their baby with stimulation and play opportunities but have had difficulty waking their child up, and keeping her awake.” (The Cerebral Palsy Handbook: p. 39)
“Drugs used to aid sleep. Drugs in this group depress brain functions: in smaller does they are used as sedatives (to calm patients down) and in larger doses as hypnotics (to send patients to sleep). They are all habit forming so that patients may quickly become dependent on them. This can be made worse by an increase in restlessness at night when the drug is withdrawn. Tolerance can develop and the side-effects may include anxiety, irritability, and depression. They should not be mixed with alcohol. They may impair learning, affect concentration and produce confusion.” (The Cerebral Palsy Handbook: p. 53)
“All parents long for children who are good sleepers. Unfortunately, children are just as likely to be poor sleepers as they are to be good sleepers. Babies with cerebral palsy, like all babies, are born with varying abilities to calm themselves in order to go from alert states to quiet states, and then to sleep. Some can go from state to state quiet easily. Other need outside help to make these transitions. For example, a child needs the help of slow, rhythmic rocking, or the firm touch and warmth that comes from being swaddled or held. Music or slow, comforting talking can also be helpful, as can a ride in an automatic baby swing or a stroller.
When your child is very young, he may need these kinds of external assistance often – particularly after a period of hospitalization. The light, noise, and pain from shots and IVs can all cause a child to be in a continual state of irritability or depression. Even just the lights, smells, and sounds in the home may be overstimulating. If these factors prevent your child’s sleep habits from developing as expected, you will need to help him establish a regular sleep-awake cycle and ease his transition to and from sleep. Use the techniques described above to help him fall asleep, then gradually withdraw your assistance as your child learns to calm himself.” (Children with Cerebral Palsy: p. 136 – 137)
“Parents of children with cerebral palsy often wonder what kind of bed is best for their children. A crib is a safe place for a young child, and will probably be the best sleeping option for the first two or three years. After this age, you may want to think about a sleeping arrangement that will increase your child’s self-esteem and help him to foster bedtime independence. If you keep your child in a crib too long, you may be promoting the “baby” image, when your child may actually be at a much older developmental age in all areas but movement development.”