Adult Sensory Processing Disorder and What It Means for Sleep

sensory processing disorder and sleep

Sleep is an integral part of our lives. It allows time for our minds to recharge, promotes a healthy immune system, decreases your chances of diabetes, and improves your life expectancy.

Unfortunately, not all of us get the same quality of sleep. While sleep disturbances may occur for several different reasons, complications with sensory processing can be exceptionally challenging to treat.

Even though children are more commonly diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, physicians may diagnose adults as well. However, these adults have typically had the disorder since childhood but have developed ways to manage it.

If you're living with sensory processing disorder and wondering how to get a good night's rest, AcousticSheep LLC, creators of SleepPhones® headphones, has you covered. We'll define sensory processing disorder, identify some common issues that may arise while sleeping at night, and provide some tips and tools that may help you sleep.

Important Note: You should always consult a medical professional before making any decisions regarding your health.

Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory processing is defined as taking in, filtering, and responding correctly to sensory input such as touch, movement, vision, hearing, taste, and smell. However, sensory processing disorder is a condition that impacts how the brain receives information from one or more of the five senses.

Twenty-One Senses, a nonprofit organization created to help parents and guardians with children who have been diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, has declared that there are three distinct categories of sensory processing disorder, comprised of 13 subtypes total:

Sensory discrimination disorder (SDD):

Sensory processing complications can manifest in a number of ways, impacting one or more of the eight following subtypes of SDD.

Sensory-based motor disorder (SBMD)

Sensory modulation disorder (SMD)

According to the University of California, San Francisco, 5-16% of school-aged children are affected by sensory processing disorder. While sensory processing complications may manifest differently during adulthood, the STAR Institute for Sensory Processing claims that “we simply do not have evidence that children can “outgrow” SPD if it is left untreated.”

Paired with STAR’s findings, Child Mind Institute’s Des Roches Rosa, a senior editor at Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, has said that “we hear from a lot of adults in our community that their sensory sensitivities actually don’t go away and that … it gets worse for many, to the point where some essentially become sensory recluses.”

Sleeping with Sensory Processing

Because our senses play a crucial role in our lives, sensory processing disorder impacts sleeping patterns and the quality of rest one receives. Important to note: poor sleep is a symptom and can be an indicator of someone who may have sensory processing disorder.

In a 2012 study surveying a total of 185 adults ages 21 to 60, University of Haifa professors Tamar Shochat and Batya Engel-Yeger found that “sleep quality significantly correlated with sensory-processing patterns characterized by hypersensitivity. These patterns were manifested in specific modalities (tactile, visual, and auditory), which significantly predicted sleep quality.”

For those who are hypersensitive, touch, sight, and sound have been found to be a common cause of inadequate sleep, with sound and touch being the most troublesome. During sleep, sounds function as distractors, especially if they are loud, inconsistent, or startling.

To combat this, we suggest trying a pair of wireless SleepPhones® headphones. Not only do our headphones reduce ambient noise, but they also relieve stress for some people by allowing them to listen to their preferred music or sounds.

In fact, a 2016 study found that noise-canceling headphones were successful in “helping children with [Autism Spectrum Disorder] to cope with problem behaviours related to hyperreactivity to auditory stimuli.” Autism spectrum disorder and sensory processing disorder differ; however, the results suggest that the way in which the disorders are managed may overlap.

Our SleepPhones® headphones are ideal for adults who are experiencing sensory processing complications. While children over age six may also use our headphones, parents or guardians should closely supervise this use and consult with a doctor. It is also recommended that the volume remain low, which is usually below 60%. Also, make sure to incorporate regular breaks as well!

Sleeping with Sensory Processing Disorder

For many people, falling asleep and staying asleep has proven to be difficult. But the complications from sensory processing disorder only inhibit sleep further.

If you or a loved one is experiencing trouble sleeping due to hypersensitivity to sound, consider trying a pair of SleepPhones®, physician-made headphones specifically designed for sleeping. Our products start at $39.95 and include both corded and wireless options to best suit your individual needs.

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