10 Tips to Help Your Child with Autism Sleep Better
Does your child take hours to settle down to sleep? Is your child frequently waking up at night? Are they waking everyone in the household up early in the morning?
Insomnia is a problem that many children with autism and their families face. Children with autism find tiredness a lot harder to cope with and it can lead to an escalation of challenging behaviours including hyperactivity, aggressiveness and tantrums. Even paediatricians do not fully understand the underlying causes of autism sleep disorders, but a few simple adjustments to the bedtime routine can make a big difference.
Here are our top 10 tips to help you and your child get the sleep you deserve.
1. Create a bedtime routine and follow through - every day! Children with autism are calmer and more settled if they know what’s happening next. It’s a good idea to sit down with a child, talk through the routine and use pictures or stickers to represent each activity. The simpler, the better. It could be something like this: Bath, book, quiet time, bed. Let your child choose the place to stick the chart so it is always available for them to check.
2. Ensure there are plenty of activities during the day. Many parents report that spending a lot of time outside has a positive impact on their child's bedtime routine.
3. Make sure the room is dark and calm. All stimuli should be kept to a minimum.
4. Avoid using scratchy pyjamas or sheets.
5. Children with autism might find potty training at night uncomfortable. If your child wets the bed at night, make sure you are well prepared for bed changes in the middle of the night and remain calm. This can be particularly challenging if your child refuses to wear a nappy. The most convenient and safest bed protection, in this case, would be washable bed pads - PeapodMats. They absorb the liquid quickly reducing the child’s discomfort. If your child has colour preferences, it’s worth stocking up on the same items. This will reduce the stress and irritation in the child. While it might not sound important right now, imagine having a favourite blanket and someone taking it away from you to replace it with a different one. You wouldn’t be happy, right? For a child with autism, those emotions are a lot more intense!
6. Keep the house quiet. Try avoiding using the washing machine, dishwasher and other appliances. If it’s street noise or neighbours waking your child up, try using white noise during the night. People of all ages use white and pink noise to help them sleep. It ‘blocks’ the other background noises, helping your child to concentrate on falling asleep and if played all night through, it reduces the chances of waking up. There are reports of white noise helping people with autism settle during the day when surrounding noises become too much.
7. Avoid giving sugar before bedtime.
8. No screen-time before bed. It is recommended to limit this to at least an hour before bedtime.
9. Help your child to relax. You might already know what helps them to settle. It could be a bath, massage or quiet time.
10. If the child comes to your room, early in the morning, try hanging a picture of a sleeping star on the door so your child knows that it is still time to sleep.
Most importantly, try to get some sleep yourself. Looking after children is exhausting and challenging. If you are struggling, seek medical help to ensure there is no medical reason for your child’s sleeping problems.
We hope these tips help you and your child. Is there something else that helps your little one settle at night? Share your tips in the comments.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.