Sleep or lack of sleep can be a major issue for children who have been diagnoised with autism. Lack of sleep can . Lack of sleep can make behavioral issues worse for a child that is on the spectrum. This can cause your child to struggle in school, at home and in the comminuty.
Here are some common sleep issues in children who have been diagnoised with autism:
· Difficulty staying asleep throughout the night
· Early morning waking
· Short-duration sleeping
· Sleep fragmentation, characterized by erratic sleep patterns throughout the night
· Hyperarousal, or heightened anxiety around bedtime
· Excessive daytime sleepiness
Insomnia is the most commonly reported sleep disorder among children on the spectrum. Insomnia is defined as difficulty falling and/or remaining asleep on a regular basis. In addition, many children with autism might suffer from frequent nightmares, night terrors and possibly even bed wetting. Since your child with autism may have an inablity to express their fears and discomforts, these fears may come out while they are asleep.
Some children have a hard time staying asleep thoughout the night and will wake up in the middle of the night to engage in inapprorate play. It is important to direct your child back to their bed, if this occurs and to make sure they understand that night time is a time for sleep, not play.
Some treatment options for sleep disorders in children with autism spectrum disorder are:
Cognitive behavioral therapy: This has proven fairly effective in alleviating sleep disorder symptoms for children on the spectrum. It is designed to improve sleep by educating your child about the science of sleep and helping them find ways to improve their nightly habits.
It is important to set up a bed time schedule for your child with autism and to follow it nightly in order to get your child used to this new routine. This will elevate anxiety because they will learn the patterns of their routine and after some time, will learn to anticipate what comes next.
A healthy bedtime schedule might consist of the following:
· Putting on pajamas
· Brushing teeth
· Using the toilet
· Washing hands
· Getting in bed
· Reading a book (or being read to)
· Shutting off the light
Some additional methods to help your child with autism improve their sleep are:
· Create a visual schedule with pictures.
· Keep the bedtime routine consistant.
· Limit TV, video games, etc towards the end of the night to allow for a more relaxed
· Read stories or engage in relaxing activities a minimum of 30 minutes before bed time.
· Provide positive reinforcement whenever your child follows the schedule correctly.
Working with your child that has been diagnoised with autism on a bedtime routine will benefit everyone at home and elevate a lot of nightly stresses on both the child and the parents. It is best to create a schedule that works well for your family as a whole and to try to stick to dispite the many distractions that life throws our way.