The sleep training clock is a tool that my team uses often when sleep training kids with special needs. When used correctly, a sleep training clock can be a very effective way to combat early mornings, and teach your child when it’s okay to start the day.
However, before you rush out and buy a clock there are a few things you want to keep in mind. Not all sleep training clocks are made the same!
Here are 6 of my top tips when purchasing and using a sleep training clock for your child with special needs:
Choose the right clock for your child
There are many clocks on the market with lots of cute faces, designs, and attractive features. You want a clock that your child is going to like to ensure your child responds well and shows interest. So, I suggest that you first narrow the choices down to suit your budget and requirements. Then, why not let your child choose from the narrowed down options? It’s a win-win for everyone!
Consider your child’s specific needs
With lots of choices on the market, comes lots of various specifications and features. Many children have sensory processing issues, and can be very sensitive to lights and sounds. More so than we think! Ensure that there is an option to have a silent wake up time and a no-night light option.
Some clocks have a night light that remains on all night, so I recommend checking that there is the option to turn off the light, as well as dimming options if you do think you’ll need a nightlight.
And, some clocks are made with 3 different settings – red at night, yellow when it’s almost morning, green when it’s time to get up. I find that kids respond best when it’s just off at night, and green in the morning. If you’re concerned about your child’s understanding, make sure to keep it simple!
Tried a color sleep training clock? Some children with special needs respond better to numbers. In these cases, I recommend getting a regular alarm clock and teaching your child when a certain number comes up, then it’s time to start the day.
Finally, some children who struggle with middle of the night wakings are likely to unplug or play with their sleep training clock at night. If you’re ever concerned about your child pulling the clock out of the wall, try to find something with a battery back up.
Prepare your child before you start using the sleep training clock
Although it looks great and your child enjoyed picking it out, they probably haven’t fully grasped the concept of the clock. And, that’s okay! Spend a few days talking to your child before you start using the sleep clock, giving them the opportunity to hear from you multiple times about what’s expected.
One great way to teach your child about the clock is to introduce it in a social story. This blog post can help you get started.
Trial the clock in your room first
Imagine that you’ve bought the perfect clock, prepared your child for the expectations around using it, and excitedly set it up in your child’s room to begin, only to find that it doesn’t work the next morning! Because of this, I always advise parents to trial the clock in their own room first to ensure it lights up at the right time so that they are happy with the settings.
Set your child up for success by setting the wake up time earlier
If your child usually wakes up at 6:30am, set the clock for 6:15am. This gives your child a chance to wake with the clock already lit up or close to lighting up. More importantly, your child will not only understand the function of the clock, but will feel successful!
You also avoid your child having to wait for a long time for the clock to light up/change color. Once your child has seen the clock go off for a few mornings, gradually shift the clock back. Just wait for the excitement on their face when they realize they did it!
Once introduced, always uphold the rules of the clock no matter what!
For any child with special needs, understanding grows with repetition. Once you start to use a sleep training clock, avoid leaving the room or starting the day before the clock lights up. As fun as the clock is, the novelty does wear off and your child may attempt early risings. It’s important that you are consistent in your approach and the boundaries around bedtime and sleep. If you are clear and consistent with your child, everyone in the family can get the rest they need!
So, what are some good sleep training clocks?
At Melissa Doman Sleep Consulting, we’ve carefully picked out a few brands that our families have used time and time again!
The OG – Mirami Okay to Wake Clock
This clock has all the core features a parent needs in a sleep training clock: it’s off and turns green, simple to use, and has a battery powered back up. It’s our Number #1 recommendation for sleep training kids with special needs, if parents can find it. Check it out here!
The Deluxe – The Hatch
The biggest benefit to the Hatch is that you have the controls through your phone. Is your child *gasp sleeping in?! Adjust the time the green light goes off. Does your child hate the color green? Teach them when it goes orange that’s when morning starts. The Hatch is also a sound machine, so you have a 2-for-1 device. It’s a little costly compared to most sleep training clocks, so if you’re concerned your child might play with it at night consider using another clock. Grab the Hatch here!
Internationally known – Tommee Tippee
Working with families internationally, sometimes certain products are not available in certain regions. This Tommee Tippee Clock can be found on Amazon in the UK/Ireland, Canada, Australia and more! It’s also set and controlled using your phone, similar to the Hatch. But, it’s less expensive.
Good for older kids – Timex Sleep Training Nightlight Alarm
This Timex clock has both colors and the time, so if your child responds better to one or the other you have a choice. And, for older kids it’s a little more sophisticated. Although it has different light settings, this can be helpful for older children who are anxious about the dark. Easy to set, and has a battery back up, too! Check out the Timex clock here.
Thanks to team member, Linda Hickey, for writing this awesome blog post 🙂