Autistic Children and Sleep
Research indicates that autistic children have trouble sleeping. According to the Autism Society of American, “Most parents have had some experience with an autistic child who has difficulty falling asleep, wakes up frequently during the night, or only sleeps a few hours each night.”
As parents of autistic children know, troublesome sleeping patterns can affect a child’s ability to learn, communicate, and control emotions. Therefore, it’s important to work on establishing some bedtime habits to quiet and calm a child and prepare him or her for a good night’s sleep. After telling a child “It’s time to go to bed,” try to establish a bedtime ritual that your child relates to for preparing to sleep. For example, bath time or story time can be good and effective ways to help calm a child. In many cases, autistic children like and even thrive on the rituals and patterns in their lives, therefore, creating “events” that a child associates with bedtime might help him or her become accustomed to a series of events that lead to bedtime each night. Any bedtime rituals for an autistic child should be calming in nature. Avoid playtime, games, computers, and television while preparing your child for sleep.
Unfortunately, bedtime rituals don’t work for every autistic child. However, a recent study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine determined that “over-the-counter melatonin medication can shorten the length of time it takes for children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) or both to fall asleep at the beginning of the night.” (2009). Children taking melatonin treatments showed improvement in “total night sleep durations, sleep latency times, and sleep-onset times” more than children taking a placebo did. Of course, parents and caregivers of autistic children should talk to their child’s doctor before beginning any new over-the-counter or prescription medications. It’s also important for parents of autistic children to discuss their child’s sleep patterns with his or her doctor to rule out other medical conditions such as allergies or sleep apnea that could contribute to sleep disorders.
Another potential solution that will keep a child from wandering out of bed and throughout the house at night which in turn might help your child sleep more through the night is Noah’s Bed, which offers a unique, child-friendly design. Noah’s Bed was designed and created by parents of an active autistic child and has been in use for several years. If you are worried about your child getting out of bed each night or if your child’s sleeping patterns are affecting your sleep, Noah’s Bed could be the solution you are looking for to ensure you and your autistic child get a good night’s sleep.