For many kids with special needs who have difficult getting to sleep, sometimes parents use white noise machines to help soothe their child. For a child who is neurotypical, this can be helpful.
However, for with developmental issues, I actually don’t recommend one.
White noise will not solve the problem once and for all
Many families that I talk to have tried white noise with a hope and prayer that it will solve their child’s sleep struggles. However, in most cases the root issue is that their child just doesn’t have their own self soothing strategies to get to sleep.
Ultimately, parents can try a host of different aides – white noise, weighted blanket, compression blanket, sound pillow, and more. But, it boils down to independence – if this piece isn’t there, these aides will only get so far.
White noise can actually hurt a child’s hearing
Now, this is more applicable for infants and young babies, but important to keep in mind regardless of your child’s age. A recent study showed that at the maximum volume, that 13 of the 14 most popular white noise machines brands were dangerous for the hearing of infants even at 6.5 feet distance (2 meters).
Researchers remind parents that the structure of the baby’s ear is different from an adult’s ear, and their ear canal is straighter and wider, which amplifies sound.
This increases the likelihood that certain frequencies, like the ones created by these machines, could damage hearing. Researchers also commented that many infants and young children are just as soothed by parents singing a lullaby or reading them a book. Nothing is better than parent’s own voice!
I often recommend reading a short book to children before sleep. Research has shown that reading books to children is important for both cognitive and speech development. So, it is established it is safe and beneficial! Children learn that a short reading session means it’s time to relax and get ready to sleep.
White noise adds to the chaos
For many children that I work with, they deal with auditory hypersensitivity. This is very common in children diagnosed with autism, ADD/ADHD, or Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
These children perceive the world in a totally different way. Often, the sounds that we have learned to tune out, or don’t seem that loud are amplified many times for these kids. So, imagine trying to sleep if you’re sensitive to sounds.
Some kids can hear the constant hum of the fridge, or the neighbors talking next door. Some children can constantly hear their stomach churning, heart beating, etc. all at the same time!
So, by adding white noise to that auditory chaos, this can actually make sleep worse. It’s better to make sure that your child’s room is super quiet, and that everything possible is done to keep things sound proof.
Even if sound sensitivity is not an issue for your child, white noise is usually not needed. Just natural ambient noise is usually enough if this is what helps soothe a child. Now, if your child already has white noise and can rest well, there’s no reason to ditch it. However, if your child with special needs struggles to get a good night’s rest consider taking it out. This can often keep the brain happy and calmer, making it easier for your child to wind down.
The Melissa Doman Sleep Consulting team helps kids with special needs get a great night’s rest! If you’re ready to get your child sleeping well, book your initial discovery call to learn how we can help.
(Image Credit: https://www.yourbestdigs.com/reviews/best-white-noise-machine/)