Tips for Improving Sleep in Children with Angelman Syndrome

Emily Malcolm, PhD avatar

by Emily Malcolm, PhD |

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Caring for an infant or child with Angelman syndrome can be difficult. Many children with the disease have sleep disturbances. For parents, this usually means their own sleep is disturbed, too.

Common sleep disturbances in Angelman syndrome include difficulty falling asleep, short sleep duration, and sleepwalking.

Talk to your doctor about any therapies or strategies they can recommend to deal with these issues. They may refer you to a sleep specialist who specializes in neurological disorders.

In addition to consulting with your doctor, these tips may be helpful:

Establish a bedtime routine

Both children and adults find routines stabilizing. Establish a bedtime routine and adhere to it. This could include changing into pajamas, brushing teeth, or reading a bedtime story.

Don’t give your child caffeine before bedtime

While having a snack or a warm drink before bed can be part of the bedtime routine, don’t include caffeine. Make sure your child is caffeine-free for about six hours prior to bedtime. Remember that chocolate also contains caffeine.

Don’t let your child be overactive just before bedtime

It’s tempting to let your child wear himself out with play or exercise before bed, but it can make it harder for him to go to sleep if he has been overactive. Try to switch to quiet time activities for an hour or so before bedtime to give your child time to wind down.

Limit screen time

Electronic screens emit a bright light that can inhibit the secretion of sleep hormones. Switch off screens about an hour before bedtime, and don’t let your child get into a habit of falling asleep to a video or TV.

Keep the bedroom clutter-free

Make sure toys are put away before bedtime. If your child wakes up in the night and sees a toy or unfinished games, it can make it harder to go back to sleep. If possible, store toys in toy cupboards or boxes so they are out of sight.

Set up the bedroom so that it is as similar as possible to when your child falls asleep. If your child falls asleep with a nightlight, don’t switch the light off during the night. If they sleep with a sound machine, don’t set a sleep timer. The idea is to set up the room so that it looks and sounds just as it does at bedtime so that it’s easier for your child to fall asleep on his own if he wakes up during the night.

Try to get your child to fall asleep when you are not in the room. One problem many parents experience is that their child learns to fall asleep when their parent is present. If the child wakes up in the night, he cries or misbehaves until parents come back and stay with him until he falls asleep again. This quickly becomes a reinforcing cycle that doesn’t help either the child or the parent get a good night’s sleep.

Keep your calm about sleepwalking

Maintaining a good sleep schedule can help with sleepwalking. However, if your child is sleepwalking, don’t hold them down or try to wake them. Stay calm and gently direct your child back to bed once he’s finished what he was doing.

For safety, keep floors and walkways clear so the child doesn’t trip Make sure windows and doors in your home are locked to keep children from wandering outside.

Don’t make a big deal out of sleepwalking the next day; you don’t want your child to have negative associations with sleep or be anxious about sleeping.

Maintain a sleep diary

Keep track of your routine. Write down what works and what doesn’t. This may help you see patterns in your child’s sleep and behavior and make it easier to help.


Last updated: Jan. 15, 2020


Angelman Syndrome News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.