Trouble Sleeping? Me to! This works for us

Stimulating the senses


The psychiatrist told us it was important for our son to have a set routine in the evenings (it always seemed to be after school he would begin to break down and it would go on for hours and hours long into the night).

We drew up a timetable we would (to begin with) stick to rigidly. This timetable involved stimulating each of the bodies 5 senses to subconsciously distract the brain by filling it with subtle stimulants.

We would arrive home from school and have free time where he could have an hour of free play to unwind.

Our evening meal needed to be well before bed time so this was 4.30 – 5.00pm. After the evening meal the set timetable came into force.

5 pm          He would sit and watch TV this stimulated sight and hearing senses (also allowed his food to go down).

5.30pm     He would get into a nice deep warm bath (just how he liked it). The bath was really important as it stimulated the touch sense over the entire body and was the real turning point from the business of the day to the calmness of the evening.

6 pm          All electronic devises off, TV, computers, Phones. We lit scented candles for smell sense. Would make a hot chocolate for taste sense and would put on tranquil, classical music for hearing sense.

None of us would distract away from what we were doing in this time. If someone came to the door it got ignored, if the house phone rang it went straight to answer phone. This was undivided attention time.

We would get a game out like a card game (memory) or connect 4. something we could calmly do as a family but something that would need focus and light concentration (distracting from tic frustration).

6.30pm     We would read a story or on occasion he would read to us (music still low in the background and candle still burning).

7 pm          After the story he would blow the candle out and take a big smell of the melted wax.  He would go through to bed play a children’s meditation cd and go off to sleep.

It was tough to begin with but once the routine was established and we all knew it was happening regardless we found both he and his younger brother thrived on knowing what was happening at what time. He began to focus more on the time and what was next than on what his body was doing.

Helpful Tips

The psychiatrist said distraction techniques can work.

Regardless of how your child is creating, shouting, crying, throwing themselves around, talk calmly to them, always appear on the outside to be knowledgeable about what they are going through and have calm body language. It is very important to always appear in control of the situation while the child is with you. Talk to your child about something that will get them thinking, something you know they are interested in or passionate about.

We spoke to our son about what colour fish are in our fish tank, we would get him to focus on trying to count how many of a certain colour there where or would tell him facts about the fish and encourage/lead him into asking questions back.

We also would ask him to “show us” how good he was at something (times tables, making up a story about his favourite teddy bear), we would always specify the topic as when he was in a meltdown he would not be able to think clearly enough to decide for himself.

Distraction techniques we found effective to a degree but beginning distraction during the middle of an episode of extreme ticing and frustration is challenging as your persona of being in control and not tired, upset, frustrated yourself is difficult to pull off and it is hard to keep thinking on your feet so your child doesn’t slip back into focusing on the tics.

The tics will still happen, it’s the reaction to the tics you are trying to distract from. Kind of like hiccups. If you have been hiccuping for ages your tummy may hurt your uncomfortable and you just can’t stop thinking about it, every time you do it, it can irritate you that bit more and quite often you’re just waiting for the next one to infuriate you further. If you take your mind off it they appear to lessen and before you know it, it’s an hour later and you didn’t even notice they have gone.