Parents with a child on the Autism Spectrum already have their hands full.
To make things even more challenging, many autistic children also experience difficulties falling and staying asleep. They may act out and require extra attention from mom and dad. It’s not uncommon for them to take longer than normal to fall asleep, and once they are asleep bedwetting might be a regular occurrence.
Considering the challenges these little ones already face, it’s imperative that they get the right amount of sleep. This will help them perform better academically, encourage the development of motor skills, and allow them to maintain a better mindset.
Not to mention, it’ll help mom and dad get a fuller night of rest, too!
What is Autism?
With 1 in 45 children now diagnosed with autism, this condition is nearing epidemic proportions. It has grown exponentially, from affecting just 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 45 in a matter of decades.
But what is it?
Autism is a neurological disorder, meaning it affects the nervous system. Because the nervous system controls every function of the body, autism can present itself in a variety of ways, although there are often commonalities.
The most prevalent symptoms include difficulty communicating, undeveloped social and motor skills, obsessive tendencies, repetitive behaviors, and gastrointestinal disorders, to name a few. ASD is referred to as “Autism Spectrum Disorder,” indicating that there’s a spectrum to this disease. Some kids and adults have a more “mild” case, and are on one end of the spectrum, while severe cases would be diagnosed on the other side.
Sleep and Autism
Autism sleep problems are often reported by parents who are trying to manage their children’s disorder. They recognize that in order for a child to function at their best, they need adequate bedtime. That’s part of the human condition.
However, the behaviors exhibited by autistic kids are the very things that prevent them from getting to bed. These behaviors include:
- Obsessive rituals
- Physical aggressiveness
In adults, lack of sleep can bring out the worst. The same is true for autistic kids. It’s almost like a vicious circle. These children are already facing daily challenges as they try to deal with being autistic.
To make matters worse, the behaviors that prevent them from sleeping properly are exacerbated by not getting enough sleep. The cycle continues, and parents worldwide are struggling to find answers to help their children get the rest they so desperately need.
Creating a Relaxing Sleep Environment
Surround them with the things they love. A soft blanket, a favorite stuffed animal, and a glowing nightlight can all help an autistic child fall asleep and stay in bed all night. Other things that may help are a white noise machine and comfortable pajamas.
A comfortable mattress can make a world of difference. If your little one is sleeping on a hand-me-down that’s several years old, it might be time for an upgrade. The same goes for sheets and pillows. Look for sheets that are made of natural fabric, like cotton, eucalyptus or bamboo. Your child’s pillow should also be carefully considered. It should be medium softness, without being too high or low
It’s not unusual for a young person to be afraid of the dark, and a nightlight can help. We suggest finding one with a dim glow. A light that’s too bright may keep your child awake.
Autistic people tend to find pressure touch calming, and a mummy bag simulates this. The idea is similar to swaddling your baby, which if you recall, they found supremely comfortable and relaxing.
A mummy bag works much the same way. Kids who resist mummy bags may need to be told that this is what Superman (or some other hero) wears when he sleeps.
Take a look at your existing mattress for kids and check it for wear and tear, sagging and odors. If your child’s mattress is uncomfortable, it will certainly affect their ability to get a peaceful night of rest.
Parents will have to do some investigative work to find the best solution. The first place to start is to make sure that all pajamas fit well and are comfortable. Check to see if your child is taking off their clothes during the middle of the night, which is a key indicator that they’re sleeping hot and need something cooler.
Getting a child to fall asleep, regardless of whether they’re autistic or not, is a nightly challenge that could last for years. While most children respond well to behavioral training and modifications, this isn’t always the case for a child who is autistic.
Within this list of tips, we hope you’ve found one, or a combination of a few of them, helpful for your situation.