cute little girl sleeping

Children with autism and other developmental disabilities can find it harder to fall asleep and remain sound asleep. All these missed amounts of sleep affect not only the baby, who may become easily irritated and likely to have behavioral issues, but also their sleep-deprived parents. You’re not the only one if you’re having trouble getting your child to fall asleep or remain asleep at night.

Parents of children with autism often worry about sleep loss. Children often struggle to fall asleep, sleep better, or wake up too early in the morning hours. Sleep deprivation can harm a family’s physical and mental health, reduce a child’s capacity to adapt and concentrate and make them nervous.

What Does Autism Mean?

Autism Spectrum Disorder or ADS is a complicated brain development disorder characterized by chronic deficits in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and confined behaviors. Each person’s experience with Autism Spectrum Disorder and the consequences of their symptoms is unique.

Autism is reported to happen in one out of every 59 children, as per the research. In addition, autism spectrum disorder is three to four times more frequent in boys than in girls. Many girls with ASD have less visible symptoms than boys. Autism is a chronic illness that lasts a lifetime. Many children with ASD, on the other hand, go on to lead self-sufficient, active, and satisfying lives. The facts presented here certainly relate to children and teenagers.

What Does The Research Say About The Sleep Problems With ASD Children?

Sleep issues affect 40 percent to 80 percent of children with Autism, including sleep onset disturbance, shortened sleep period, and extended night wakings being extremely common. Sleeping discomfort, sleep agitation, late afternoon sleepiness, early rising, co-sleeping, poor sleep quality, and parasomnias are all sleep-related issues. Children with ASD also have several sleep problems at the same time. Besides that, relative to sleep issues in children with basic development, sleep problems in children with ASD are more frequent.

The Common Disturbances Of Sleep Deprivation With ASD Children

Everyone needs 7-9 hours of sleep each night to feel fresh and productive during the day. The majority of children with ASD have difficulty falling asleep.

Due to fatigue, ASD symptoms worsen, making it difficult to sleep the next night. The cycle goes on. As a result, many people are affected.

Since the most frequent sleep problems are connected to falling and staying asleep, a sleep issue can be classified in a variety of ways:

Insomnia: the inability to fall asleep and/or remain asleep.

Circadian Rhythm Sleep-Wake Cycle Disorders

Sleep-Related Breathing Disorders: apnea, groaning, snoring

Rapid Eye movement: They spend around 15% of their sleep duration in the rapid eye movement (REM) period, critical for memory learning and retention.

Hypersomnia: an overabundance of sleepiness (during daytime)

Too much movement during nighttime sleep, also known as parasomnia.

Restless Sleep: Sleep is usually restless for people with ASD once they slowly fall asleep. In their sleep, they toss and turn. They are awakened by a sound in the house. They are so unpredictable that sleeping partners always choose to nap in a separate bed. They still notice the bed in a mess and the sheets spread on the floor when they wake up. They are not rejuvenated by sleep; they wake up tired.

Evidently, sleep disorders are more common in children with autism, and they are exacerbated by some of the stress factors that are highly correlated with an autism spectrum disorder.

The Impact of Sleep Disorder in ASD Children

  1. Your child can be exhausted and irritable throughout the day.
  2. Obesity with morbidity.
  3. More guidance is needed for simple tasks.
  4. Concentration and perseverance with tasks are affected.
  5. It may seem that communication is lacking.
  6. They may be more emotionally fragile, crying or becoming violent in response to smaller stimuli.

Causes of Sleep Problems In ASD Children

Sleep disturbances are quite often caused by a combination of biological, social/environmental, psychological, and familial causes. Here are a few examples:

Inadequate Production Of Melatonin

The child will have difficulty falling asleep if the body does not produce melatonin (a secretion that sends a signal to sleep).

Irregular Circadian rhythms

The body’s normal sleep cycle is known as the circadian rhythm. This can be affected in children with sensory processing differences, like children with autism. So children with autism cannot naturally fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning.

Bedtime routines

Any sleep issues can be traced back to what kids do before getting into bed and going to bed. It’s also important to consider what time they go to sleep and also where they sleep.

Habits throughout the day

Abnormal eating habits and insufficient physical practice during the day can also contribute to sleep problems.

Sleep disturbances in autistic children may also be caused by or correlated to:

  • anxiety
  • restless sleep
  • snoring
  • night terrors and nightmares
  • bedwetting
  • illnesses and health conditions

Sleeping Tips For Your ASD Children

Routine for bedtime

The schedule should be consistent, brief (20–30 minutes), and involve soothing activities like listening to soft music or reading. Avoid using gadgets such as the TV, phone, electronic games, and other distracting devices near bedtime that can create difficulties for your child falling asleep.

Make The Bedding Comfy

A good mattress will make all the difference in sleeping time. Search for mattresses made from natural materials, such as cotton, eucalyptus, or bamboo. The cushion that your child uses should be taken into consideration. It should be of moderate softness, neither too hard nor too soft.

Safe Sleep System

It is recommended to arrange a safe sleep system that includes the bedroom to be dim, silent, and comfortable. Since children with ASD may be more sensitive to noise or severe light or have anxiety problems, the setting should be adjusted to ensure your child’s comfort.

Physical Exercise

Physical activity, especially aerobic exercise, assists in falling asleep more quickly, prolonging sleep time, and waking less often during the night.

Melatonin Supplements

Melatonin supplements can help several autistic children take naps more quickly, sleep for longer periods, and wake up less frequently during the night.

If you want to give your child melatonin, you’ll need to get prescribed medication from your pediatrician. These doctors will recommend the proper dosage and provide you with details about melatonin, including potential side effects or drug interactions. They’ll even keep an eye on your kid while they’re on the treatment.

Sleep issues are common in children with ASD, but they can also be eased. So help your ASD children to get sound sleep with proper medication and lifestyle changes.


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