Autism Sleep Solutions: Behavioural Tips to Help Put Insomnia to Bed

The following is an invited post by one of our readers, Sara Cummings. I asked Sara to introduce herself to our readers and this is what she wrote:

Hi! I’m Sarah Cummings, I have a Gateway Qualification Level 3 Award in Supporting Children and Young People with Autism. I’ve been working with autistic patients as a self-employed enabler since I finished university and I find that helping people to succeed and progress with confidence in life is what makes my work worthwhile.

My love of exercise has always been a big part of how I lead my life, and I find it helps with lots of things, including sleep. I’m an advocator of promoting sleep and how it can be the difference between living a fulfilled life and an unhappy one.

I have had the good fortune to have a long and spiritual background in yoga too, and I feel as though this pairs perfectly with my passion for healthy eating and leading an active lifestyle.

I enjoy learning and coming up with new ways to develop my writing so that I can help others to grow and learn too. When I have a spare morning, you can catch me gazing at sunrises from different places on the planet!

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It’s common for children who live with autism to endure issues with sleep pattern regularity.

Some children can function throughout the day at full capacity until they are literally ready to drop, and then sleep in sound slumber throughout the night, then find it hard to get going in the morning. Other children can find a lot of difficulty in getting to sleep and can frequently wake up, or suffer restlessness, which can frustrate them while they’re in bed.

You might think this is obvious, but the child who enjoys a restful night’s sleep is going to be less hyper-irritable come morning.

If they are able to keep going until they are ready to drop during the day, then being able to draw this energy back before becoming totally exhausted will enable easier waking up periods in the morning and the chances of them being in a more manageable, happy mood too.

To help with this, we’ve got some tips on autism sleep solutions for you to try. Note that no single suggestion will definitely work for every child, but they are all proven to have worked so it’s worth trying

  1.     Consider removing electronic devices, including television two hours prior to bedtime. Using smart devices and watching TV stimulates the brain and also emits a blue light threat prevents the melatonin from releasing in the brain effectively.
  2.     Another activity that needs to have a two-hour cut-off point before bedtime is excitable or rowdy play. Again, this is a stimulating activity that takes time to settle down from.

Instead, steer your children towards quiet activities including drawing and reading books, as these activities are far more suitable as part of an effective bedtime routine.

  1.     Incorporating a bath or shower as an evening activity can be good if it’s not already included.

If it’s included, stick to five minutes of towelling-down. If you have a younger child who needs help with this, ensure you use downward strokes in the direction the hair grows. You can integrate lotion too and make this activity longer as pressure touch is calming.

  1.     Due to pressure touch and neutral warmth both proven to be calming influences for autistic children, you may wish to use a sleeping bag to further promote calm, restful sleep, The Sleep Advisor recommends. Choose a mummy-style bag which provides a close fit around the body instead of a looser model.

If you want to convince your child of the idea, try saying that this how astronauts sleep, for example, as this will be them accept the notion.

  1.     Once in bed, offering a back-rub is a positive way to soothe your child to sleep. Adopt the towelling-down technique and begin at the neck, then slowly work your way down to the base of the spine. Be rhythmic with your strokes and once one hand reaches the base on the spine, use the other hand to start at the back of the neck again.
  2.     You can feature some soft background music to help induce sleep. This can be useful for relaxation and drift off. It is important to choose the music carefully. It’s important to use music that includes a certain predictable rhythm. Favour instrumental music over tracks that have lyrics and singing on them.

As parents, you should remember that the amount of time and effort that you put into establishing and promoting good sleep, it will help both you and your children in the long-run.

Lastly, just bear in mind that children who are on the autism spectrum expend vast levels of energy, therefore, they require additional amounts of sleep.

Here’s a rough guideline, for you to follow:

  • Ages 1-3

12-14 hours of sleep per night

  • Ages 3-6

10-12 hours of sleep per night

  • Ages 7-12

10-11 hours of sleep per night

 

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