SLEEPING

Sleep is hard with Autistic children. They can be hard to put to sleep. They can easily wake up. This causes them to be tired and emotional during the day and we have enough challenges already.  Here's an exerpt from what sleep doctors say about sleep and Autistic children.

by Carin Lamm, MD
Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics Diplomate American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Director Pediatric Sleep Disorders Center Columbia University Medical Center

Sleep problems are very common, reportedly as high as 80% in children with ASD. In typically developing children sleep problems and insufficient sleep can result in daytime sleepiness, learning problems and behavioral issues such as hyperactivity, inattentiveness and aggression. Recent research in children with ASD demonstrates that poor sleepers exhibit more problematic behavior than good sleepers. The most common sleep problems in children with ASD are difficulty falling asleep and repeated awakenings during the night. Some children have very prolonged awakenings or awaken very early for the day. When a child has difficulty sleeping, the sleep of other family members is often impacted.

The following list is just a guide on how to create a bedtime state of mind for your child and a restful environment too. We have used many of these ideas to help with our son.  It has taken a few years for it to be consistent but it is well worth it once everyone is getting a good nights rest.

 

  • Wear pajamas to bed. This can be your birthday suit, but it signals your mind that it’s bedtime.

  • Don’t let your bedroom get too hot or too cold. Sleep can be disrupted at temperatures below 54 F or above 72 F.

  • Make your room dark. Consider installing room-darkening shades. Or wear eye covers to block light from the street or LED displays.

  • Buy a good mattress. You spend 1/3 of your life in your bed, so it’s worth the investment.

  • Use a pillow that supports your head and neck. Give the pillow the bend test: If you bend it in half and it stays in position, it’s too floppy.

  • To filter unwanted sounds, use a white noise machine. Your brain still hears things when you sleep.

  • Sleep on breathable linens. They will reduce sweat, body odor, and skin irritation, all of which can disrupt sleep.

  • Bedtime routine: the routine should be predictable, relatively short (20 – 30 minutes) and include relaxing activities such as reading or listening to quiet music. Avoid the use of electronics close to bedtime such as TV, computer, video games etc. that can be stimulating making it difficult for your child to fall asleep.

  • Sleep\wake schedule: the schedule should be regular with not much of a difference between the weekday and weekend schedule.

  • Teach your child to fall asleep alone: It is important that your child learn the skill of falling asleep without a parent present. All children and adults wake briefly during the night but quickly put themselves back to sleep by reestablishing associations used at bedtime. So if your child needs a parent present to fall asleep at bedtime, he might need a parent to help him fall back asleep during the normal awakenings.

  • Exercise: Daytime exercise can make it easier to fall asleep and children who exercise tend to have deeper sleep. Avoid allowing your child to exercise too close to bedtime as it can make it difficult for him to fall asleep.

  • Avoid caffeine particularly close to bedtime, which can be alerting making it difficult for your child to fall asleep. Caffeine is found not only in coffee, but also in tea, chocolate and some sodas.

  • Naps are helpful for preschool children, but should not be taken late in the afternoon as they can interfere with bedtime.

  • Create a visual schedule for your child: A visual schedule helps your child identify what the expectations are and what is coming next. Here is an example below:

Ideas for helping your child sleep

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