14 Ways to Help Children with Autism to Sleep Better
Does your child struggle with sleep issues? Research shows sleep issues are common in about 80% of all children with autism.
The most common issues are falling asleep and repeatedly waking up during the night. Some of our kids go to bed very late, wake up very early or wake up for long periods of time. These sleeping problems affect the entire family. The child is more prone to negative behaviors and the parents and siblings are tired and often cranky.
There are three potential reasons for sleep disturbances and I will break down all of them.
The potential reasons are neurological, behavioral, and medical. First, let's discuss behavioral issues. The most common behavioral issues are poor sleep hygiene and limits setting problems that can contribute to insomnia.
Next, we have medical based issues. These can be more complex and need a doctor or sleep specialist. These medical issues are as follows: epilepsy, gastroesophageal reflux, anxiety or depression, sleep apnea, sleep walking, nightmares, and restless leg syndrome. Also keep in mind that some medications can cause sleep disturbances.
There are a number of ways to help children with autism to sleep better:
- First they need a proper sleep environment, such as a dark quiet room.
- Create a bedtime routine. It should be predictable and no longer than 20 to 30 minutes include relaxing activities such as reading or quiet music.
- Try to avoid all electronic use ( TV, computer, video games, tablets) close to bedtime.
- Create a regular sleep and wake schedule.
- Teach your child to sleep alone in their bed.
- Try and keep them active during the day.
- Avoid caffeine after dinner time.
- Naps are helpful for young children but should be avoided in late afternoon.
- Weighted blanket can help provide pressure and sensory input which help triggers the release of serotonin.
- The use of white noise machines.
- Some believes that essential oils help. The most common types are lavender and cedarwood.
- Limit sugar after bedtime.
- A visual schedule of the routine and when they're expected to be in bed.
- But most of all, be consistent.
Trust me, we struggled for years with Ryley sleeping horribly and she only sleeps in our room. We tried these tips and now she has a great bedtime and sleeps in her own room. So yes, they do work as long as you are consistent.