Sleep problems not only affect the child, but the entire family. Consistent sleep problems can cause aggression, hyperactivity, depression, irritability, and difficulty learning. If you are unsure if your child has sleep problems, keep a sleep diary for at least a week. Write down when and how much sleep your child gets each day. Children with autism may have one or more of the following sleep problems:
- trouble falling asleep
- inconsistent sleep routines
- restlessness or poor sleep quality
- waking up early
Tips to Help your Autistic Child Sleep Better
Making some changes in daily habits and routines may help your child sleep better at night.
- Cut out any stimulants such as caffeine or sugar a few hours before bedtime.
- Have a bedtime routine: brushing teeth, taking a bath, or reading a bedtime story.
- Put your child to bed at the same time each night.
- Make sure your child gets some exercise during the day. This exertion can help tire them out enough to sleep better.
- Don’t allow your autistic child to nap during the day.
- Use an air purifier or a fan to create white noise. This consistent noise can help block out other noises and may be comforting for your child.
- Prevent any noise or light that might wake a light sleeper. Make sure doors don’t creak and windows are covered.
- Avoid stimulating activities before bedtime. No horseplay, television, video games, or loud music.
- Bright light therapy can help the body regulate the release of melatonin. Expose the child to periods of bright light in the early part of the day.
- Researchers have found that small amounts of melatonin are safe for kids. Consult with your physician to see if this is an option for your child. The physician can recommend the proper dose that you should use.
If nothing else works, then you may need to consult with your physician about any medications available to help your child sleep. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the medication. Find out if the medication is safe for children and any side effects that it may cause.
Taking the steps necessary to help your autistic child get a better nights sleep will benefit the entire family.