9 Ways to Help Your Child with Autism Get Enough Sleep
When you have a child with autism, getting them to sleep can be difficult for a variety of reasons, be it overstimulation, side effects to medication, or other medical disorders. But the problem could be exacerbated by other factors at play. Maybe your child is over-caffeinated, or maybe their nighttime routine could better prepare them for sleep. If you’re looking for ways to lull your little one to dreamland, here are are a few tips that might help you establish better sleeping habits for your child.
9. Avoid Sugar and Caffeine
Both sugar and caffeine act as stimulants. Giving any child either or both before bed can keep them awake way past their bed time. When considering that children with autism tend to be extra sensitive to stimulation, it becomes obvious these foods can only cause problems when it’s time to send your kids to sleep.
8. Shut Down Electronic Devices
Electronic devices are fun and they can certainly distract children. But they can also stimulate a child and make them too wired to go to sleep. Before sending your little one off to bed, make sure all their electronics are done for the evening. Turn off all devices well in advance of bedtime — at least an hour — and allow your child to calm down before tucking them in.
7. Embrace Routine
Establish a nightly routine that works for your child. Whether it’s a bath and a story or a prayer and a lullaby, start your routine while your child is young, and be consistent with the schedule moving forward. That way, their body will become accustomed to shutting down at a certain time for bed.
6. Do a Relaxing Activity
As part of your nightly routine, incorporate a relaxing activity to lull your child to sleep. It could be something like rubbing their back, putting on soft music, or reading from a book. This will help set the mood to calm them and send them to slumber.
5. Block Out Light
Because a child with autism is extra sensitive to light, touch, and noise, put blackout curtains at their windows to keep out any light that may bother them. Opt for carpet instead of wood flooring that creaks. Know what extra-sensory stimuli bothers your child, and work to mitigate it as best you can at night.
4. Adjust the Temperature
Sometimes a child with autism is merely sensitive to temperature. If the bedroom is too warm or too cold, they might have trouble falling asleep. Adjust the temperature accordingly. While this might not completely solve the problem, it could help in conjunction with other sleep-friendly strategies.
3. Get Them Moving
Exercise or physical activity during the day might help your little one tucker out later in the evening. Try incorporating a fun daytime game or a trip to the park. But make sure the physical activity doesn’t take place too close to bedtime, as it could overstimulate your child.
2. Consider Melatonin Supplements
Some children with autism experience issues with their circadian rhythms — the 24-hour cycle of the human body. Often, this means a child becomes more active and social at night rather than during daylight hours. A melatonin supplement, which is a hormone that aids in regulating this process, can help children adjust their nighttime sleep patterns.
1. Talk to a Psychologist
For those children with severe sleeping problems, take them to a sleep psychologist, and consider bright-light therapy. During this therapy, children undergo sessions of bright light in the beginning of the day that may help them feel more awake during daylight hours.
Although it may be difficult at times, there are ways to ensure that your child gets a good night’s rest. Forming routine bedtime habits can only help your child deal with any sleep issues long-term. Getting a handle on sleep problems may lead to helping your child better manage other everyday issues, such as excitability, repetitive behaviors, and poor social interactions. As any parent can attest, the payoff of a well-rested child is certainly worth the effort.