Paediatric Psychology Team Toolkit - Sleep Difficulties

The aim of our toolkit is to provide advice, activities and general resources to help families to manage some every day challenges and difficulties around sleep and bedtime habits.  As a parent, you are the best person in your child's life to support these difficulties, however, working with all key people in your child's life to ensure consistency is paramount and essential for success.


Sleep disorders are common in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other Complex Needs and have significant effect on daytime function and parental stress

You can manage and overcome many sleep problems using common behaviour strategies.

Firstly, we would recommend all families to keep a sleep diary for two weeks.  A sleep diary can help establish any unusual patterns of sleep and identify factors which may influence the ability to sleep. 

Why children with complex needs have trouble sleeping                                     

  • Communication difficulties
  • Love of routine and bedtime habits
  • Anxiety
  • Medical issues

Managing sleep problems 

  • Develop a positive bedtime routine
  • Remove all electronic devices 1-2 hours prior to starting the routine
  • Give plenty of warning bedtime is approaching
  • Be consistent
  • If your child is upset or gets out of bed, quietly and calmly put your child back to bed - This may need to be repeated, especially if you are trying to develop a new bedtime routine
  • Consider the sleep environment 
Useful downloads:  

Sleep leaflet

Sleep diary


Useful websites:

SCOPE - Sleep Right

National Autistic Society - Sleep and Autism

Essential guide to Sleep Problems and Autism

Social Stories

NAS - Visual support




The page was last updated on 23 June 2020 by paediatricpsychologicalservices.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust
Elizabeth House, Fulbourn Hospital
Cambridge, CB21 5EF

T 01223 219400 (open 8:30am to 5pm)
F 01480 398501

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