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Autism Sleep Problems

There’s a saying in the autism world – “If you’ve met one autistic person, then you’ve met one autistic person”.

Autism is, as we know, a spectrum, and on it lies innumerable facets of difference and similarity in comparison to not only the neurotypical, but the autistic alike. You may never know if you have met someone with autism, especially if they find they are socially well versed, however, as a parent of an autistic child I have found it simpler to try and spot the fellow parents of young, autistic children.

The No Sleep Club

When children with autism are very young, you may find yourself part of what I call the “No Sleep Club”.

Image shows a photograph of a close-up of a tea cup, with a young girl out of focus in the background, lying on the floor reading a book

One of many early-morning photos, taken at 3:37am.

Being the parent to an autistic child whom does not sleep is obvious to other card-carrying members of the no sleep club – the early mornings  and late night bedtime turmoil, present themselves as red eyes; you get sick of people asking if you’ve been crying (and perhaps you have, and that’s ok – more on this later!). The dark circles and lines beneath your eyes you thought were predestined for your elderly years, start to make an unwanted appearance 20 years before schedule. People talk to you, but you wonder if you’re losing your hearing, because you just can’t understand a word they say, and it takes you approximately 45 seconds to reply to any question asked of you (except, perhaps for “would you like a tea or coffee?”), and when it comes to verbally communicating, you perhaps get an idea of how difficult it is for our kids to process information, as you struggle to form a complete sentence no matter how simple the subject matter.

The Now-Obvious Signs of Early Autism

Sleep is absolutely vital to every living thing on this planet, and only when you’ve been deprived of it, can you truly understand the devastating effect it can have on every angle of your life.

My daughter is 8 years old, and she was diagnosed with Autism when she was 22 months old. “22 months old? That’s impossible!” I hear you gasp. However my daughter was so obviously autistic from an early age that the diagnosis came secondary to the treatment, as it was clearly imperative to all involved that she should receive Speech and Language Therapy (SLT), Occupational Therapy (OT) and be supported at nursery via a Statement of Special Educational Needs (now known as EHCP) as soon as possible.

The first time a SLT came around to our house, she sat calmly on the floor opposite myself and my daughter (who was most likely running around in a circle humming nursery rhymes at the time) and took a moment to take-in what she was going to be dealing with.

A few moments passed, and she simply said “I am here because you are worried that your daughter has a social communication delay, and I just need to tell you now that we can see she has autism”.

That was basically a diagnosis at 22  months of age. We didn’t need a plethora of tests to certify her diagnosis, that was purely a formality which came at the age of 3.

Tippy-toe walking, no eye contact, hand flapping (stimming), no gestures (pointing, waving etc), a lot of screaming – almost constant screaming, poor coordination, severe sensory issues (although it took us a long time to work that out, and understanding her sensory issues quelled some of the screaming), echolalia, no functional language whatsoever, and … no sleep.

When Will My Baby Finally Sleep Through?

From being a baby my daughter would struggle to sleep – it was either that it was seemingly impossible to get her to fall asleep, or that she would sleep so lightly even when utterly exhausted, she could be woken by the wind blowing outside of the window.

At first, when she was tiny, we thought it was colic, then teething, then after this point the world just started spiraling into absurdity as we tried to figure out why she wouldn’t sleep.

It would take us hours, literally, to get her to fall asleep, and then when she did, we had no guarantee as to how long she would stay asleep for.

She would wake at two hour intervals throughout the night, and once awake, would scream endlessly whilst kicking holes in the plaster of the wall around her bed.

Image shows blankets and duvets strewn across a sofa and the floor, with a girl and her dad asleep on the floor

Under the mass of duvets and blankets lies one very exhausted little girl and her dad, having been awake for hours in the night – the pair finally succumbing to sleep.

Mostly she would simply start the day at 2am, and become more frustrated and bored as we slowly approached 5 am, where she had already been awake 3 hours. We took reluctant trips to the 24-hour Tesco just for a way to pass the time. We waited impatiently for 9am or 10am to finally arrive, at which point we might actually be able to partake in some “normal” activities, as the world finally caught-up with our family.

Not sleeping, not having a routine, not being able to rely on the therapeutic and restorative qualities of sleep throws everything you thought you knew about life right out of the window.

How can I keep dragging myself into work each morning when I’ve been up since 2am for the past 3 months? How can I socialise when I don’t know if my daughter will fall asleep before I go out, and stay asleep once we’ve come home? Even more importantly, is there anyone willing to babysit my insomniac child? Is my child going to be able to do anything with her day given she’s slept 4 hours in a 48 hour period? Am I going to be able to continue to function like an average human when my brain is breaking under the pressure of sleep deprivation?

The answer is no, you can not function without sleep – and this is why I am writing this post. You should not have to suffer and “just get on with it”. My partner and I have been through exactly what you might be going through, and I hope I can offer some help.

You need to rest not only to retain your positive spirit, wellbeing and mental health, but also to be able to devote yourself to being a brilliant parent to your autistic child.

First Things First – Getting the Right Support

If you have a child with a disability you are entitled to support from your local authority for something termed “Short Breaks”. Although this might sound like you’re being offered a weekend for two in The Lakes, it is in fact a form of funding that should provide you with regular breaks from your caring responsibilities. What is great about Short Breaks is the aim is to not only give you a rest so that you have a chance to do something you enjoy, but it should also provide your child with an opportunity to do something they can enjoy, safely with the appropriate care.

So, whilst you are working on strategies to enhance the sleep routine of your family, you should first enquire with your local authority about your entitlement to Short Breaks.

Short Breaks come in many forms, from having a trained carer take your child out to the park once a week, to funding towards clubs or paid-for activities that your child can partake in whilst you have a break. Funding can also cover overnight care if you are comfortable with your child being looked after away from home, or perhaps if your child is young and not of school age, funding can be put towards nursery sessions.

For more information and support regarding Short Breaks please look at this page on the Contact website.

Creating the Perfect Sleep Environment

Ensuring your child has the correct environment to sleep in is no mean feat, especially if your child has autism and is non-verbal. As a parent of a non-verbal child, you spend most of your day in a tizzy of confusion and shared frustration trying to guess what the basic wants and needs of your child are.

If your child has sensory issues, it is so important that you confer with your Occupational Therapist to clarify the underlying sensory needs of your child.

Children with autism and other disabilities can often be over (hyper) or under (hypo) stimulated by not only the obvious sensory inputs, such as sound, light and touch, but also two less frequently talked-about senses: vestibular and proprioceptive.

Sensory issues are in themselves almost as complex and personal to the child as every other dimension of their autism, and this is why you should ensure that your child has been seen by your local OT so you can make the right decision about changes to the bedroom and any aids that might benefit your child in their sleep.

Proprioceptive and Vestibular Issues and How they Might Affect Sleep

The Proprioceptive and Vestibular senses are not talked-about very often, but if they are not functioning quite as they should, they can cause some very confusing and upsetting sensory experiences for our children.

The vestibular sense relates to your movement and balance – it is the sense of bodily balance, the speed at which you are moving, a sense of overall gravity and how you know which direction your body is in.

The proprioceptive sense is even more tricky to explain, as it is how your mind computes the position of one body part to another, and also, how much pressure you need to employ for certain tasks, such as writing or gripping a cup.

We have discovered that our daughter is mostly hyposensitive in regards to both her proprioceptive and vestibular senses – therefore, she is under-responsive. We have found that this often translates as poor coordination and seeking more fulfilling physical sensory feedback (such as running, lying on the floor or enjoying the most terrifying of rollercoasters and amusement park rides!).

We have found an excellent website that can clarify the signs of hyper/hypo sensitivity to the proprioceptive and vestibular senses here : http://www.developmentalpathways.com/services-sensory.html

Bedtime products that might assist children with poor proprioceptive and vestibular senses are as follows:

  1. Base Layers

If your child is under-responsive to the touch of clothing and bedding, they might not be getting the correct feedback about their position in bed whilst lying down. One excellent way of providing your child with a more constant source of sensory feedback is to try wearing base layers for bed time, or even just very tight-fitting pyjamas. The feel of the closeness of the base layers against the skin will give constant and consistent feedback, which may hopefully allow your child to relax as they are more aware of their position in bed.


  1. Weighted Blankets

Again, for children whom struggle to have a true sense of their position and their relation to the bed and their own limbs, they might benefit from a weighted blanket. The pressure from the blanket can provide great comfort to many children, and give them not only a sense of security, but fulfil those sensory needs. Weighted blankets come in various weights, and you should contact your OT to get the correct pressure ratio depending on your child’s weight and height.

Other Sleep Aids and How they Relate to Sensory Issues

  1. Lighting

Lighting for your autistic child’s bedroom is rather tricky – as it definitely depends upon where they sit in terms of sensory issues. Although we assume that an entirely blacked-out bedroom is most conducive to sleep, if your child is under-stimulated visually, you may find that the darkness of their bedroom offers only opportunities of pure confusion for them.

Every person will briefly wake in the night, even if we don’t remember the event come morning. However, for most of us, we are naturally very aware of our surroundings even when in a sleepy haze. Yet, if your child is not processing sensory input from their surroundings correctly, during that tiny moment of wakefulness, they may become scared, confused and anxious as to not only their bodily position, but also the obvious – where they are!

This may cause them to wake fully, and then you’re all back at step one!

I have found the best method to clarify your child’s lighting needs is to first try the obvious – make the room as dark as possible, then slowly work on introducing small light sources to see if this has a positive impact.

It took us 8 years to discover that our daughter is “afraid” of the dark. She can not explain why or what she doesn’t like about the dark, but by her own actions we now know she prefers a small light source whilst sleeping – and most specifically, she likes to be able to hold the light as she falls asleep.

So, to ensure the bedroom is as dark as possible we suggest:

Blackout curtains – ideal for keeping daylight out and also benefit by keeping the warmth in/cold out! (Be aware of patterned curtains though, as no matter how much you may like them for your child’s room, they can be over-stimulating visually.)

 

Groblind – Portable blackout blind with suction cups, eradicates most light by being attached directly to the windowpane. Fits any window up to 130 cm x 198 cm.

 

Bed Tunnels – these are fun whilst also being functional! In effect, you are safely bringing the ceiling closer to your child whilst they sleep, which may help them process their position in bed a little easier, whilst also adding a little more darkness and cosiness.

 

As for lighting – well, there are a number of therapeutic lights available, but sometimes it might just be best to choose a low-level light that specifically appeals to your child’s interests and likes!

Groclock – Many children with autism have learning difficulties and/or language delay, and this can make the ability to convey the difference between night and day almost impossible. We will cover more on this specific angle in the Sleep Hygiene section, however, the Groclock may offer a quick-fix in terms of trying to establish the difference in your child’s mind.

The Groclock will turn blue and display a ring of stars once it is bedtime, with a large sleepy, smiling star central to the clock during the nighttime. As morning approaches, the ring of stars slowly disappear, one-by-one, until finally, at a time of your choosing, the blue light will fade to orange, and a smiling sunshine will appear. My only issue with the Groclock is that it has been proven that blue light is actually not the best colour light for sleep issues, as it can mimic daylight. The best colour, confusingly, is orange or red – however I still think the Groclock is worth a go, especially if your child is starting to understand the passage of time, and it also comes with a lovely little illustrated book about farm animals to help your child understand the function of the clock.

Battery Operated LED Lights – If you feel your child would benefit for their own little light that they can hold, touch and operate themselves, then thankfully the internet offers a whole plethora of lovely designs and shapes.

I would suggest not going for a colour-changing LED night light, as this might offer too much stimulation and would stop your child falling asleep/being stimulated if waking in the night. (Also please ensure the light you purchase has a battery compartment which is secured with a screw, and preferably uses AA/AAA batteries rather than cell batteries – as these can be extremely dangerous if swallowed).

 

My daughter has a lovely little LED light in the shape of a cloud, and she will hold it close to her face as she falls asleep. It is battery powered and also has an auto-off function after 5 minutes, making it ideal for her to keep in her bed all night long. On top of this she also has a piece of LED wall art, which is battery powered, upon her wall just a short distance away from her bed. This is left on all night, but due to being battery powered it gives-off just the right amount of light.

 

  1. Decor and Bedding

Again, although each child has very different needs, one aspect I believe is common for all young children with autism is that they will benefit from having a low-stimuli bedroom. This is important in a way that lowering visual stimuli applies to all children of a certain age – if there is nothing in their room to distract them, then it is obviously very difficult for them to be distracted!

This was one aspect that really touched upon a nerve with me when my daughter was younger – on learning I was to become a mum, one of my first realisations was how much fun it was going to be to decorate my child’s room in an exciting way! Lots of lovely pictures and colours, pretty ornaments and oodles of toys for them to enjoy.

However, as time progressed, and we started to realise that our daughter needed extra help with something as simple as sleeping, it occurred to me that I needed to relinquish my hold on my previous dreams of a fun bedroom for her, and concentrate on making it functional and calming.

Image shows three squares of colour overlapping slightly diagonally (light pink, light green and pale cream)

Very pale pink, green and cream are proven to calm both boys and girls with autism

I suggest that choosing very calming colours is the first-and-foremost important step. Colours such as very pale green or cream are proven to calm. It is imperative that you stay away from not only bold, bright colours on the walls, but even more importantly, patterned wallpaper. The patterns in the wallpaper can be visually arresting to even adults (ever stared for too long at an abstract pattern, that you become convinced you see something relevant in it?!)

For our kids, patterns in wallpaper can be actually quite unnerving for them (or for some they might be overly engaging), and may completely occupy their thought processes, meaning they can not relax or go to sleep.

The same applies to bedding – keep everything simple in terms of calm, pale, plain bedding and not too many accessories, such as throw-cushions etc.

Next, is toys. As I mentioned previously, I initially wanted a little safe-haven for my daughter when she was born, but it didn’t take long to understand that having a bedroom brimming with toys and therefore, distractions, was ultimately not ideal in terms of getting her to sleep.

This doesn’t mean that your child has to have an entirely desolate bedroom, devoid of anything of comfort – however, I would keep articles to that requirement – only items that are simple, and will provide your child with comfort.

If you can experiment with making your child’s room low-stimuli for a trial period, and you find this has a positive effect, then once they are a little older and (hopefully) sleeping better, you could slowly reintroduce a few fun items.

My daughter has a cabin bed, and below it is a set of storage drawers/boxes that contain her toys – whilst she is sleeping, she can not see them, and I think that helps a lot.

Sleep Hygiene – What is it and How Will it Help?

Something of an odd term if you’ve never heard of it before, “sleep hygiene” relates to all the activities and processes involved in the approaching period before bedtime (and even during the nighttime, when your child should be sleeping). There are a number of key guidelines that should always be followed before bedtime to ensure that your child is relaxed and calm before even attempting to put them in bed.

Visual Aids and PECS

If your child is non-verbal or has SEN it can be almost a surreal experience trying to convey to them that they need to sleep at night. Not only do they need to sleep, but mum and dad really, really need them to sleep. If they don’t sleep, well, everyone is very sad, because they’re very tired. That is putting it mildly.

It is difficult for parents of typical children to truly get this point across to their kids without simplifying the subject, and even more so if your child struggles with new or abstract concepts.

Hopefully, depending on age and the support you have received so far, your child may be able to understand simple symbols and may even enjoy reading short picture books. If so, then I would enquire with your SLT to see if not only do they have visual aids and “Now and Next” boards you could use with your child before bed, but also they may have on file a “social story” regarding sleeping.

The PECS and visual aids, used alongside a Now and Next board, or even a time-line, can help you map-out exactly what is expected of your child before bed. Having a good routine and simplifying this in a way that “speaks” to them more easily using pictures, may help alleviate some of the frustration and confusion when it comes to getting ready for bed.

Bedtime Prep and Calm-Time

Bedtime prep should be started an hour before the actual desired sleep-time. The first important part of this prep is to stop all high-stimuli activities – no iPads, TV, games or loud music. There needs to be an obvious stop to the usual daytime activities so they can understand that soon, it will be time for sleeping. Personally, we have found that moving our daughter upstairs in the hour before bed works well – now she is older she can potter around for a while in her bedroom whilst we watch her, and then we move on to having a bath. We make sure all the lights are low-level, curtains closed and that every night we do all prep (other than the bath!) in her bedroom – so she knows for sure that this is the room where sleeping happens, and hopefully (!), will stay in there during the night.

Please keep in mind that your GP may be able to prescribe melatonin for your child – melatonin is a hormone that is released by the body as daylight levels fade, allowing you to relax and helping your body and brain understand that sleep is soon due. Although we did try this with our daughter, unfortunately it made no difference to her sleep issues. It can not do any harm to naturally ensure that your child’s circadian rhythm (body clock) is ticking over correctly though, and the best and natural way to do this is to ensure lots of outdoors/sunshine in the daytime, and dark, calm time before bed.

Night-Waking

Just as ensuring the time before bed is simple, predictable and calm, it is just as important to carry-through these concepts if your child wakes in the night. I know first-hand how difficult it can be to retain a sense of control in your role as a parent when woken endlessly, night after night. You may get to a point, after weeks or months of sleep deprivation where you feel like giving in to whatever you feel your child wants when they wake early.

I have shared support groups with parents whom understandably, yet ultimately counterproductively, did things like offer their children juice and biscuits upon waking in the night, put the TV on for them (in the child’s bedroom nonetheless) or even let them play with an iPad. I am not judging anyone who feels like this is what they need to do to get a few extra minutes sleep, but as I said previously, you are ultimately creating a nighttime environment that will never be suitable for sleep. If a child (with or without SEN!) learns that they will receive treats or partake in fun activities in the middle of the night, they will probably keep waking for that exact reason.

Lying on the sofa, 3am, I have many-a-times been roused from my swirling, semiconscious nightmares of dense, seemingly idyllic woodland being trampled upon by giant, ballerina-skirted girl-monsters – because I too, have given up on trying to make my daughter sleep and given into her watching In the Night Garden, because I just didn’t know what else to do.

Further Help and Support

However, hopefully, even if that does sound like an average morning for you, I hope that if you can follow some of the tips we have offered here, we can help you and your family get the sleep you all deserve.

Writing to you directly as a mum who has been through the depths of sleep-deprivation despair, I understand that these tips we’ve offered you today might just seem too much to organise and change on your own. This is why I would like to reiterate that no matter how bad the situation may seem, or how difficult it is to keep on-top of everyday life whilst having such substantial caring responsibilities, it is imperative that you seek assistance and respite for you and your child.

It is so important that you take the time to care for yourself – as important as the care your child needs. Remember – contact your local authority to discuss your entitlement to “short breaks” respite, and if you are ever so tired that you are “just not yourself” or feeling very unhappy, I implore you to see your GP to discuss support, or for you to contact one of a number of disability charities that offer fantastic advice and emotional support.

Images shows large text which reads "Contact" then smaller text which reads "For families with disabled children"Contact: 0808 808 3555
https://contact.org.uk/advice-and-support/our-helpline/

Image shows a rainbow-coloured, spectrum in a circle with the text National Autistic SocietyNational Autistic Society: 0808 800 410
https://www.autism.org.uk/services/helplines.aspx

 

Image shows the word Cerebra (in capital letters) with a yellow star to the right, Underneath text reads "Working wonders for children with brain conditions"Cerebra: Sleep Service 01267 244210

https://w3.cerebra.org.uk/help-and-information/sleep-service/

 

 

Many thanks to Chris Bonnello who helped with the editing of this post:

Chris Bonnello (Autistic Not Weird)
Site: http://autisticnotweird.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/autisticnotweird
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/AutisticNotWeird

Twitter: @AutisticNW

Sleep Aids and Bedroom Essentials for Disabled People

Sleep aids and top tips for a good night’s sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for the wellbeing of us all, and we understand that living with a disability can often make having a truly restful night very difficult to achieve. We know it can be frustrating and demoralising when you are denied something as simple as sleeping at night. In this post we review some of the latest gadgets and sleep aids that might help you achieve a restful night.

What can you buy to help you sleep?

This is why it is important to make sure you have the right equipment in your bedroom, and create the perfect environment that is hopefully more conducive to peaceful, unbroken sleep. It is also essential that people whom have to spend extended periods of time in bed keep comfortable and well, so that is why we have come-up with an extensive list of practical bedroom accessories and products, that can hopefully help you get a more comfortable and solid night’s sleep.

1. Extra Neck and Spine Support – Tempur Neck Pillows

Memory foam pillows can provide much-needed comfort for those whom suffer from joint issues such as arthritis and spinal conditions. Memory foam reacts to body-temperature, and will mould and support your neck and head perfectly due to your own body-heat, and will then distribute your weight, dispersing it equally around the surface of the pillow.
Ideally it is best to go for a pillow with a high density memory foam for a higher-quality product (usually 5/lbs per cubic foot), however most available products will fall short of this density yet still provide obvious benefits in comparison to a conventional pillow.

Image shows a photograph of a woman's head and shoulders, reclining with neck on a Noffa pillow. Above her sleeping head are three icons indicating the benefits of using the pillow

Noffa Memory Foam Pillow with Breathable Cover

  • Queen-sized pillow for extra comfort
  • Curved Ergonomic design
  • Anti-allergen covering

 

 

Image shows Tempur rectangular pillow in the centre, with pillow features encircled around the sidesBonmedico Supreme Pillow With Bamboo Pillowcase

  • Gel memory foam provides extra support and keeps you cool
  • Washable Bamboo cover is dust and mite resistant, and helps regulate body temperature
  • Traditional shape and size pillow, so can be used with your regular bedding

 

 

2. Use Blankets Instead of Duvets

A general tip if you are struggling to get a good night’s sleep is to consider removing your duvet and instead opting for a selection of blankets. Duvets, especially synthetic ones, are not great at regulating your body heat as you sleep, therefore it should be considered that layering with blankets may offer a more consistent temperature whilst you rest. Also blankets can be much safer and easier to remove for people who struggle to manoeuvre themselves whilst lying down.

 

3. The Inimitable, Essential Trabasack Bed Tray

person in bed with a trabasack lap tray and a laptop on it

Blogger Danni in bed with a trabasack

The Trabasack is a unique bag and tray in one, designed specifically with disabled people in mind, that has a plethora of wide-ranging uses. It is the ideal companion to those whom have to spend lengthy periods of time in bed, and absolutely perfect for evening and morning use as a bed tray.
The most suitable models of Trabasack for use as a bed tray are the Trabasack Mini and Trabasack Curve; each being available with two tray surface types – both with their own merits that will help make your life easier!

Image shows a photograph of the Trabasack Mini with a cup and pad and pen on the tray surfaceThe Trabasack Mini is the most compact, lightweight model in the Trabasack family, and it’s rectangular shape and firm faux-leather tray surface makes it ideal for use with laptops and other tasks such as drawing or writing in bed.

As with all Trabasacks, the Mini has a zip-up internal bag compartment that is perfect for keeping any essentials you may need for bed, such as your favourite book, reading glasses, medication, remote controls or phones.

Image shows a photograph of the Trabasack Mini with a laptop on the tray surface

The handy carry-bag style of the Mini and the Curve makes them perfect for taking around the house, and can be filled with your desired items that are needed in preparation for you going to bed.

Image shows a photograph of Trabasack Curve bags in various trim colours, stood on end and lined-up one behind anotherThe Trabasack Curve has an ergonomic, waist-hugging design that means it sits close around you whilst in use. The curved shape along with the quick-release side straps makes it a good choice for anyone who needs that little bit of extra security to ensure the tray and items on top stay close to hand.

The traditional Trabasack Curve has a firm faux-leather tray surface like the Mini, and also includes a beanbag insert that ensures the tray remains steady and comfortable upon your lap whilst in use.

Image shows a photograph of the Trabasack Curve with a cup and an apple on top of the tray surface, on a white backgroundThe Trabasack Curve Connect, and the Mini Connect have been created with a velcro-receptive tray surface – meaning you can safely and securely attach a multitude of items to the tray-top without fear of them falling over, falling off or just getting lost in your bed.

Using Trabasack sticky-back hook tapes, you can adhere strips simply and quickly to any item you need to secure, such as plates, remote controls or tablet computers, to make sure they stay in place.

Image shows an illustration of the uses of the Trabasack Media Mount - holding a mobile phone, a book and a water bottleEven more ideal is the Trabasack Media Mount, which can be used in tandem with any of the Connect models of lap tray bag. The Media Mount is a pliable, flexible device made from soft hook and loop receptive fabric, that can be twisted and shaped to hold almost anything upright or at the perfect angle atop your Trabasack tray surface.

 

The Media Mount features a velcro strip sewn-in to one side, which means you can twist and turn it to get just the right angle, and it will stay in the shape you desire, and also attach itself quite securely to the Connect tray surface.Image shows an iPad being held upright with a Media Mount, attached to the tray surface of a Trabasack Curve Connect with blue trim

The Media Mount can hold cups and mugs steady with ease, and can be used to prop and position books, iPads, phones and remote controls at the perfect angle you need.

What makes the Trabasack exceptionally multi-functional is that when not in use in bed, it can be used as a modern, practical wheelchair tray or handy bag – providing you with a reliable, sturdy tray surface and bag whether at home or on the go!

 

4. Keeping Dry and Comfortable

Keeping your bed hygienic and dry is a very common concern for many, and the best line of defence to avoid costly mattress replacements is to ensure you purchase high-quality incontinence bedding, usually in the form of mattress protectors. Thankfully there are now a number of luxury mattress protectors available on the market that mean that you do not have to forego comfort and dignity when choosing the right bed protection. Bamboo woven fabrics can keep your body temperature regulated and provide anti-bacterial properties, whilst ultra-soft fleece protectors can keep you snug and warm – whilst both still ensuring full waterproof protection for your mattress.

Image shows a diagram of the corner of the mattress protector, showing the layers of fabric and various features encircled around the edge of the imageLow-noise Anti-Bacterial Bamboo Mattress Protector

  • Bamboo woven fabric provides antibacterial properties and heat regulation
  • Crinkle-free, low-noise fabric
  • 100% waterproof, with bamboo being 4 times more water resistant than cotton

 

Image shows the packaging for the Luxury Mattress ProtectorCoral Fleece Top Luxury Mattress Protector

  • Maximum comfort provided by a luxury coral fleece top lining
  • Thermoplastic layer provides airflow and regulates body temperature
  • 100% waterproof with a 10 year guarantee

 

 

5. Profiling Beds

Profiling beds, or adjustable beds, are often essential for individuals whom need extra assistance getting in and out of bed, or find sleeping on a traditional fully-vertical bed painful. Being able to adjust various aspects of the position of the body whilst sleeping can alleviate the pain and discomfort of many types of condition, and one of the most proven benefits of having an adjustable bed is the ability to elevate the backrest portion; allowing those who have painful joint conditions to sit up with ease for eating, reading or chatting and at the same time, ensuring those with respiratory issues can breathe more easily whilst sleeping. Profiling beds also usually include removable side bars for safety and peace of mind, and easily-adjustable height control, which can be variated for either getting in and out of bed, or allowing carers to make transfers more comfortably and safely for both the carer and disabled person.
Profiling beds can be life-changing for many households, however they are costly – some conditions may qualify for a free adjustable bed via the NHS, so we suggest you contact your Occupational Therapist for more information as to whether you or your loved-one may qualify for support.

Image shows a photograph of a reclining, movable profiling bed with hoistFully Profiling Electric Bed

  • Electric hight adjustment
  • Electric adjustable backrest and knee break, with four position mattress support
  • Attractive wooden finish yet solid, heavy duty steel frame

 

 

6. Keeping Hydrated

It is essential to keep hydrated when unwell, and with a number of long-term conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease or illnesses that cause vomiting and diarrhoea, it is imperative that water is consumed frequently and with ease, especially if you feel too weak to sit-up to have a drink.

The Hydrant drinking system is a hydration aid that is used in numerous NHS settings. The Hydrant drinks bottle is unique in its design; allowing the user to drink no matter what position they are in, be it sat up or when Image is a photograph of the Hydrant drinks bottle with drinking tube and clipreclined. Featuring a flexi-grip handle that also functions as a clip, the Hydrant bottle can be attached to bed frames, headboards or other convenient objects close to the bed, to provide hands-free drinking. The drinking tube attached to the Hydrant also features a bite valve, allowing the user to bite-down and suck to drink, with liquid only flowing when pressure is applied to the valve. This means that you can stay hydrated without assistance at all times, with no fear of spills or leakage when the drinking tube is not in use.

Another brilliant drinking aid is the Sturdy Straw – much like the Hydrant, the Sturdy Straw is a hands-free non-return flexible straw that can be clamped on to surfaces or furniture to ensure hydration is Image shows a Sturdy Straw clamped to the edge of a desk surfacealways close at hand. The Sturdy Straw is available in a plethora of attractive colours, and also comes in two different lengths (45cm and 65cm) but most importantly it is available in three different widths, which means not only can you keep hydrated with thinner liquids such as water, but it can also provide nutrition via the wider tubes for liquidised meals or soups.
www.sturdystraw.co.uk

7. Slide Sheets and Drawing Sheets

If you suffer from painful muscular or joint conditions, or have limited strength due to your disability, even the simple task of getting comfy and turning over during the night can cause broken sleep. It is proven that getting a good, solid night’s sleep is essential in helping not only your body to recuperate and repair itself, but also vital for a healthy mind, too. Slide sheets are indispensable for those whom ordinarily struggle to move easily and comfortably whilst in bed; silky, satin-like fitted sheets offer a very low resistance to your body weight, and by removing the friction usually caused between your nightwear and bedding, make it much easier for you to turn over whilst in bed. Draw sheet systems are also an essential addition to your bedding if you require assistance getting in and out of bed, as they make transfers and turning much quicker and less difficult for both yourself and your assistant.
Also of note if you struggle to position yourself in bed, or have difficulties sitting up, is the addition of a simple bed ladder – the non-slip handles ensure you have a secure grip and the ladder design allows you to pull yourself into an upright position from lying without any assistance. Bed ladders are easy to fit to any bed frame and are ideal for people with back problems.

Image shows a black bed ladder on a white background in the centre, and to the bottom right a photograph of a man lying in bed, pulling himself upright using the bed ladderBlack Bed Ladder

  • Non-slip rubber grips
  • Easy to install and remove using quick-release buckles
  • Compact and lightweight, yet sturdy and strong – ideal for travel

 

 

 

 

Image shows a photograph of a room decorated beige, with a small vase of flowers atop a bedside table and a single bed with headboard, two pillows and special bed sheet fitted to mattressSecure Sit and Slide Fitted Sheet

  • Fully fitted sheets available in all bed/mattress sizes
  • Includes a central, low-friction satin panel
  • Edges of sheet are made from a woven polycotton to provide extra grip when sitting on side of bed

 

Image shows a photograph from above, of a lady lying in bed with two care givers on either side. The carers are using the sheets below the patient to turn her in bedWendylett Base Sheet and Draw Sheet SystemImage shows a diagram of a man lying on a bed with two intersecting sheets below him, to either side of the bed is a care-giver getting ready to transfer or turn in him in bed
Two items which can be purchase separately, but together create a proven, useful bedding system that can be used alone (Base sheet for easier turning) or together with the Draw Sheet for quick, comfortable transfers with a carer.

 

8. Avoiding Pressure Sores

As the slide and turning sheets with help you avoid friction sores, there are also specialised items that can help you avoid or minimise pressure sores, especially on delicate areas such as the feet, ankles and elbows.
Warm, comfy fleece-lined “boots” are L-shape in design, meaning they can be used as boots to protect the ankle/foot joint or also double as an elbow joint protector. The soft, cushioned fleece lining offers warmth and comfort, whilst also shielding delicate skin from potential pressure sores. Light weight, so ideal for wearing for long periods of time, and easy to remove or put on thanks to a velcro fastening system.

Image is a downwards photograph of a man's foot in a fleece-lined heel protectorDual Elbow and Heel Protectors

  • Foam and fur-lined booties, that can be used on elbow joints as well as feet.
  • Anti-slip, exterior fabric for extra peace of mind
  • Easy to put on and remove, using a velcro fastening system

 

Image shows a photograph of a royal blue bootie lined with cream-coloured faux fur100% Wool-lined Fleece Ankle Protectors

  • Thick, 100% wool fleece for extra comfort
  • Universal, adjustable size so suitable for all
  • Washable at 40 degrees with non-bio detergent

 

 

Image is a photograph of sheepskin-lined heel protectors in a dark green colourGreen Sheepskin Heel Protectors

  • Made from genuine sheepskin – pure comfort and natural fabric allows better regulation of heat
  • Attractive green colour and high-quality appearance
  • Soft, gentle and lightweight

 

 

9. Keeping Cosy and Warm

Perhaps it is for most of us that electric blankets are a thing of the past thanks to central heating, however for many whom are sick and have vulnerable immune systems staying warm at all times is vital in ensuring their recovery and general wellbeing. Thankfully electric blankets have transformed since the ones we might have fond, snuggly memories of from the past, and many are fitted with a plethora of technological advancements that not only ensure safety, but can be controlled via Bluetooth, regulate the temperature depending on your body heat and more! Ideal for those with allergies as they can reduce dust mites, and perfect for soothing aches and sores, have a look at our suggestions for modern, sumptuous electric blankets.

Image shows a photograph of the electric blanket folded neatly, with the dual electronic controllers on topMongram Smart Electric Blanket

  • Can be controlled via Bluetooth or app whether at home or away – warm your bed ready for when you get home
  • Luxurious, super-soft fabric for extra comfort
  • Separate heat zones which can be individually adjusted in temperature via the LED controller or app

 

Image shows a photograph of a plush, grey faux-fur blanket, folded with a controller on top. In a grey circle to the left it states "From 1p a night to run"Relaxwell Deluxe Faux-Fur Heated Blanket

  • Super-sumptuous faux-fur – delightfully soft and beautifully stylish, would look great in the living room as well as in the bedroom
  • 9 heat settings and auto-shut off
  • Economical – costs a few pence to run all night

 

Image shows a photograph of a folded, fleecy electric blanket in cream, with a controllerDreamland Intelliheat Electric Blanket

  • Blanket responds to ambient temperature to ensure a constant temperature all night long – stops you from over-heating whilst also saving money
  • Soft fleece fabric with satin trim for extra luxury
  • 5 heat settings with auto power off

 

10. Keeping Cool and Calm!

Moving-on from keeping warm and cosy, sometimes it is also important to stay cool and comfortable whilst sleeping! Given the extreme heat we saw in the UK this past summer, many of us struggled to keep cool come bedtime, and one item we recommend is a positionable bed fan to provide a soothing breeze and circulate air whilst you sleep.

Image explains the various features of the clip-on fan, including size and power sourceClip-on Mini USB Powered Fan

  • Compact and portable – can be clipped-on to bed frames, furniture and more
  • Can be powered by USB or includes rechargeable battery
  • Comes in a range of colours to suit your taste

 

Image shows three square photographs to the lefthand side displaying the features of the fan, and centrally a large image of the fan itselfWall-Mounted Remote Control Fan

  • Wall-mounted design with fully-articulated fan head and remote control
  • Powerful 60w motor with 3 speed settings and osculation mode
  • Timer setting for auto power-off if required

 

Image shows the circular ring-shaped Dyson desk fanDyson Air Multiplier Desk Fan

  • Super-safe design eliminates fan blades yet still provides an uninterrupted, constant cool stream of air
  • Magnetised remote control with 10 airflow settings which attaches to the fan
  • Powerful airflow that is 75% quieter than an average blade-fan and uses 30% less electricity

11. Maintaining Good Air Quality

Maintaining good air quality can be an aspect of a good night’s sleep that many people overlook. There are many points that need to be considered when it comes to the air quality of your sleeping area, and it is should be noted that if you suffer from a respiratory condition you should always consult your Occupational Therapist to make sure you get the conditions for your bedroom right.
First and foremost ensuing air quality is pure and filtered is a must – whether you have allergies,
sleep apnea or simply find yourself feeling congested due to urban living and traffic pollution, a decent air filter or purifier could make big changes to your quality of sleep. Air purifiers with Hepa filters installed can capture airborne pollen, pet dander, dust particles, pollen and more, clarifying the air for easier breathing.
Air humidifiers are brilliant at providing moisture in the air that you breathe at night – quite essential in winter when central heating can dry the air. An air humidifier is a truly simple way to eliminate a number of symptoms that can occur after waking from sleep – such as a dry throat, cracked lips and dry skin.
We also suggest that air is kept circulated around your bedroom at night, with a fresh air supply making a huge difference to sleeping conditions. Obviously most of us do not want to keep windows open in the middle of winter, so having an extractor fan installed to your bedroom can ensure the fresh air in your room flows freely without leaving you feeling a winter chill!

Image shows a photograph of a white air purifier by Levoit with a digital display on the topLevoit Air Purifier with True Hepa Filter

  • Includes both a Hepa and carbon filter, to remove 99.97% of air particles such as dust, mould, smoke and pollen
  • Monitors air quality and automatically suggests the correct setting for your room
  • Large space coverage and auto-off timer

 

Image shows a spherical, veneered air humidifier with turquoise detail and timer on the frontSimple, Stylish Bamboo Room Humidifier

  • Modern, stylish design that would look great in the bedroom or living room
  • Diffuses the air with a cool mist to keep the air moist
  • LED light feature can double as a nightlight

 

Image shows a photograph a white air humidifier with a digital display to the front, water container on the back and a remote controlLevoit Cool and Warm Humidifier

  • Ultra-quiet so ideal for bedrooms – large capacity means it can be used continually for 36 hours before refilling
  • Humidity and room temperature sensor – keeps you up-to-date with changing environment and automatically adjusts output based on surroundings
  • Remote control and digital display making it easy to control

 

Image shows a "Which?" magazine best buy accolade to the left, and a photograph of the Air purifier to the rightPhilips App Control Hepa Filter

  • Manage air conditions from inside the home or even whilst away, using the Philips App
  • Includes true Hepa filter which will remove 99.97% of airborne particles and even bacteria in the air
  • Carbon filter removes gases and odours from the air

 

12. Lighting Conditions and Hormone Regulation

Your ability to slip into a comfortable slumber is controlled by the release of Melatonin – a hormone that regulates you to feel tired at night and awake in the morning. The creation of Melatonin by your body is dependant upon the amount of daylight you receive and at what point in the day the levels of natural light start to decrease.
Therefore, if you try to go to sleep with too much natural light in your room, your body will struggle to allow the release of Melatonin, making it difficult for your body and mind to relax, and let you fall asleep naturally and gradually. By this measure, it is also essential to receive enough natural light in the daytime, to counteract the fall of night – giving your body a quite obvious distinction between night and day (or sleepiness and wakefulness!)
Blackout curtains are a great way to keep light-levels low in your bedroom, and are useful for people of all ages. We’ve found some lovely curtains that are available in many colours and styles, and also some fun designs for children, too.

Image shows french doors with pink, pencil pleat curtainsImperial Rooms Luxury Blackout Curtains

  • Blockout natural light to keep light levels to a minimum
  • Available in a large range of lengths and many colours
  • Thick fabric keeps heat in and cold out, can be machine washed

 

 

Image shows a photograph of a room with light-coloured furniture and a window sporting pale blue and pink curtains printed with birds and blossomsPatterned Thermal Blackout Curtains

  • Available in a large range of prints to match your décor and taste
  • Triple-weave fabric blocks out up to 95% of daylight
  • Include tiebacks and can be machine washed

 

 

Image is a photograph of a child's nursery with cot, chair and drawing easel. At the window hangs animal patterned blackout curtainsKids Printed Blackout Curtains

  • Fun designs for children’s bedrooms
  • Available in 3 different lengths
  • Thick fabric blocks out daylight and keeps the room insulated

 

 

 

Thanks for reading – we truly hope these products and tips help provide you with an insight into creating the perfect sleeping conditions, and we wish you a more comfortable, cosy and restful night’s sleep! Look out for new post coming soon with a look at children’s products and bed-time routines for disabled children.

Zec Reviews – Trabasack Mini Connect

The following is a wonderful review of the Trabasack Mini Connect, kindly written for us by fellow blogger Zec.

Zec has been a wheelchair user for a number of years, and we’re glad to say that his Trabasack Mini Connect seems to have provided the perfect perch for his tablet computer whilst not only out-and-about, but at home, too!

Please read on for Zec’s review and you will find further info about his blog at the end.

I have on my lap a bag/tray called a Trabasack© that was sent to me to try and review, I always review honestly. I have seen a Trabasack on Facebook and Twitter before but and here is a confession, I thought it’s something I wouldn’t need as I thought it might be for someone who has higher needs than me.

Photographic overview of the Trabasack Mini Connect in its packaging, which lists the benefits and features of the lap tray bag

A brand new Trabasack Mini Connect in packaging – ready to be tried and tested!

The one I have on my lap is the Mini Connect, it’s the smaller of the two that I was sent but I have immediately decided it’s my favourite.

It’s about 14 by 10 inches with two very sturdy fabric carry handles; on one side is a flat tray that is covered with a fabric that the hook side of Velcro will attach to. A zip with a double open zip with rings attached to the zipper that allow very easy opening even if you have poor grip, manual dexterity and arthritic hands would be able to open it easily.

Inside a zipped pocket contains a bean bag that allows the bag to mould to your legs, this means it’s not only very comfortable and this is important because my legs are very sensitive, it also means the bag is level on your lap. I use a Sony Xperia Z tablet because a laptop hurts my legs; I spend a lot of time laid in bed or on the settee and the tablet is ideal.

Photograph shows the back of a white tablet computer case, with two parallel strips of black adhesive hook tape on the back.

Securing items such as tablet computers or iPads to the surface of the Mini Connect is quick and easy, using our adhesive velcro tape.

Now that I have the Trabasack Mini Connect it’s even better, I used a pack of Trabasack Hook sticking tape, a pack contains four 2.5 x 30cm pieces and I used two pieces on my tablet case and attached it to the tray, in hindsight one piece cut into two would have been adequate because it is more than secure. I’m laid slightly to one side but the Mini Connect is still sat straight and secure, inside I have my meds for today and my mobile phone, although there is room for it on the tray and that is what I have just done now I have thought of it.

I keep my glasses secure when not wearing them by sliding an arm through one of the D rings. Laid in bed the tablet can sit on the Trabasack on my stomach or on the quilt and doesn’t slip and slide about. I have hung the Trabasack on the back of my wheelchair next to the settee to watch a film and there must be many more ways that I haven’t used yet. It is also ideal for when I have an outpatient appointment; I take my tablet along to pass the time because quite often it’s a long wait.

Now I’m not a slim person, some may even go as far as to say I had a big belly and I guess they are right. So sat in my wheelchair, my lap space is at a premium, having the tablet on my lap is awkward and I have to make sure I hold it, in between I have to put it in my rucksack on the back of my wheelchair and its almost asking for someone to steal it, but now it can sit on my lap secure and I can put it inside the Trabasack when I’m finished and know it’s in sight and safe.

Photograph of a tablet computer and iPhone attached to the tray surface of the Trabasack Mini Connect wheelchair tray bag

Here Zec’s phone and tablet computer sit safe and secure upon the tray surface of the Mini Connect.

I have had the Trabasack Mini Connect for a good few weeks, my tablet is always attached to the front and when I am not using it, I just flip the tablet case closed and it stays there. All I do when I want it is to pick up the Mini connect by the handles and onto my lap and open the tablet, it then sits on my lap so naturally, it even sits on one leg without a balance problem. Yesterday I took the tablet off of the Trabasack for the first time and honestly I didn’t like it and put it straight back on, it’s perfect and my in-laws were talking about getting one for their iPads.

The Trabasack can be carried by the handles, over one shoulder with one strap or worn like a rucksack. In a wheelchair a strap can go around your waist (unless you are a biscuit eater like me) or two side straps can attach to the wheelchair or buggy. I slide a strap around my thighs and it is secure. The thing is, the Trabasack Mini isn’t just handy because I have a disability, it would be useful on the train or in a car, its handy storage for a tablet or notebook and some extra items that you need to take along. The design is perfect and the optional media mount attachment can be used to hold an ipad, tablet or kindle at the right angle or wrapped to hold a bottle in place.

All in all a great product that serves as a bag and a surface to work on and connect your tech.

Thanks again Zec for such a fantastic and positive review of the Trabasack Mini Connect! If you’d like to read more about Zec, please visit his blog “Sat on My Butt” for lots of insightful life stories, and his journey living with chronic pain.