Helping your deaf child get a good night's sleep

Have you seen today’s research claiming new parents are losing out on over 650 hours of sleep a year? Sleep, and families getting enough of it, is a big issue.

Sleep problems are common in children and many parents report sleep issues with deaf children. Not knowing how to help your child get a good night’s sleep can be frustrating, and leave you unsure of what to do (as well as feeling exhausted).

The National Deaf Children’s Society has produced a factsheet outlining possible explanations, tips on how to help your child, and where to go for further help and information.

My Family, Our Needs will also be featuring a sleep expert in our next instalment of Ask the Expert; keep reading to find out who it is and how you can submit any questions you have to her.

Why does my deaf child have trouble sleeping?

There are lots of possible reasons why your child may be having sleeping problems:

  • It can be frightening for a deaf child to be in the dark with no vision or hearing. Hearing children can be soothed by their parents’ voices or other sounds but this isn’t possible for deaf children.
  • If your child uses hearing technology, they may not like the quiet when it’s taken out at night.
  • Many deaf children’s balance relies on their inner ear and their vision, so in the dark the child may feel particularly disorientated.
  • Some deaf children have tinnitus which can be loud and intrusive at night time.
  • The things that work with getting hearing children into sleep routines, such as music and story tapes, may not work with deaf children.

Once you’ve thought about which of the above reasons may apply to your child, there are things you can do that may help.

If your child is frightened at night:

  • Leaving a hall light on can help.
  • Try rotating light mobiles that make patterns on the wall or ceiling.
  • Glow in the dark stickers or a nightlight can focus their attention elsewhere.
  • You could leave a piece of your clothing with them so they are left with your familiar smell.
  • Tell them when you’re leaving the room so they don’t get worried when they realise you’ve gone.

 If your child doesn’t like taking out their hearing technology:

  • If they are old enough, you could remove it for them once they’ve fallen asleep.
  • It could be left on the bedside table so they can put it back in if they wake up and feel scared.

 If your child has balance issues:

  • It may help to tuck them in tightly so that they feel ‘grounded’.

 If your child has tinnitus:

  • Make an appointment to see your family doctor as tinnitus is often caused by a temporary condition that your GP can treat.
  • Visit the British Tinnitus Association website where there is useful information about tinnitus in children, and technology and therapies that could help manage it.

 If you’re struggling with routines:

  • You could use a picture diary on your child’s bedroom wall showing the bedtime routine – bath, story, kiss, bed – and take each picture off the wall as it is completed.
  • Make sure you do the same thing every time your child wakes up in the night, such as settling them back to bed with a soft toy or a hug.

 With thanks to the National Deaf Children’s Society for sharing their factsheet with us. You can find out more about them .

Because we know that sleep is such a common issue for parents and carers, our next Ask the Expert slot will feature sleep expert Vicki Dawson, CEO of The Children’s Sleep Charity. Submit your questions for her now at

There is still just enough time to send in your education questions for our expert lawyer – answers to follow next month!

Useful Links

After you’ve tried the suggestions above, you might find you still need extra help and support. Not all are specific to deafness but you may still find the information useful.

The Children’s Sleep Charity 
Provides free training workshops for parents and professionals.

Contact a Family 
A charity for families with disabled children, Contact a Family have produced a useful leaflet about helping disabled children sleep.

This national charity carry out workshops, work with individual families, and provide online tips, including information about sleep.

The Friendship Circle 
A blog which brings together 30 tips to a good night’s sleep for children with special needs.

Working with children who only have a confirmed neurological diagnosis, Cerebra have sleep practitioners who can offer help and advice on sleep issues, some of which include settling problems, difficulty sleeping alone and early rising.

How do you cope with lack of sleep in your household apart from lots of coffee? Do you have any tips or ideas you could share with us that could help other parents? Email us at or tweet us @weareMFON