How to encourage positive sleeping patterns

Do you find your ASD child finds it difficult to sleep? Firstly, they can’t get to sleep. Then, when they finally get to sleep, they find it difficult to stay asleep. Or perhaps they sleep at the wrong time of the day, and their sleep patterns are all over the place. Or you find them sleeping in the strangest of places and positions, which is great for those funny 21st birthday photos!

If all of the above sound familiar, you are not alone. Many parents who have children with autism struggle with the same thing on a daily basis. So, what can we do about it?

Some of the things I tried with my ASD son was creating a bedtime routine. This meant turning technology off at 8pm, and having some tech free time before bed. If they like to read or be read to, make sure there’s plenty of time for reading. You can also use relaxing music to help them drift off to sleep.

The trick is to make sure the routine is the same every night. Remember ASD kids like routine and don’t like surprises. This will help with any anxiety they may be feeling about going to sleep.

Something else that can help is wearing them out during the day. If you have an active child take him/her to the park, get them into sport or something where they are outside, staying active and getting fresh air into their lungs. With any luck, after all the activity and excitement they’ve enjoyed throughout the day they will be able to rest easier at night.

I’ve found too, that ASD children can be prone to bedwetting. This is not uncommon, although it’s a nightmare having to wash the sheets and change the bed every day or two. The good news is, they will grow out of it eventually, but for a lot of ASD kids this phase generally continues until at least the beginning of puberty.

Unfortunately, bedwetting can disturb their sleep and yours, however, there are things you can do to help, like taking them to the toilet before you go to bed. You can also use electronic devices that wake the child at the first sign of moisture. A worthwhile investment in this case would be a good mattress protector. And, as stressful as it can be for you and your child, the best thing to do is to not make a big deal out of it, as this can cause them anxiety about falling asleep.

If you are still having trouble getting your child into a better sleeping routine, you can seek medical advice from your GP or pharmacist. There are over the counter, natural sprays and tablets that increase the levels of melatonin in your body to help you sleep. This too could prove a worthy investment.

The main point to realise is eventually your child will wear themselves out enough and they will fall asleep. They may not sleep for the amount of time you’d like them to, and they may not sleep at the time of day, or night, you’d like them to, but they will sleep and they will get enough sleep for them to sustain themselves. You, as their parent can only do so much. If you are finding it difficult to control their sleep, then let it go and focus on your own sleep. Autism parents need as much rest as possible to face the everyday challenges that lie ahead.


SASI Guest Parent Blogger

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