7 Ways to Help Your Child With Autism Sleep

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“AAAAAGGGGHHHH!!”

I startled awake and climbed to the top of my bed, frightened.

I took a moment to breathe and blink my eyes awake.

I saw the Marvel Superhero,  Ant-man.

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Actually it was Declan dressed in the stylish full Ant-Man costume.

I looked at the clock and it said 11:57.  Declan went to bed 3 hours earlier.  He was up already?  AGAIN?

 

Autism sleep disturbances

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If your child has autism, there is a good chance that you experience autism sleep disturbances.  According to the Autism Speaks website, 80% of children with autism experience some form of sleep disturbance.

Catelyn did not sleep well as an infant.  I took her to the Pediatrician to tell them she never slept.  They told me that of course she did, I was just to busy to realize she was sleeping.  But I knew, no matter what they said, she did not sleep very much at all.  She sleeps better now.

Declan has always had sleep issues.  He has trouble falling asleep.  Once asleep, he usually wakes up at 3 AM and stays up until at least 5 AM, if he is not up for the day.  Some days, he wakes up earlier.  And every so often he will sleep through the night.

How to promote sleep

I have kept a very detailed sleep journal to help follow sleep disturbances.  In order to see what helped us, I wrote everything down.  Here is what I found helps us get through the night.

Routine

We follow the same bedtime routine, every night.  We try to potty, we brush our teeth, we sing the same songs, we give each other hugs.  At the same time, every night.

Weighted Blanket

The weighted blanket helps promote sleep in children with autism.  It provides proprioceptive input, or deep pressure, to the children in need of sensory input.  We did not buy a weighted blanket,but have fashioned one for him.   I weigh Declan down with blankets and small sand weights, pillows and stuffed animals on top of him.  The weight helps keep him calm.  The weighted blanket provides the same sensory input and calm as swaddling a baby.

Similar to the weighted blanket is a bed wrap.  A helpful alternative, especially on warmer summer nights.

Melatonin

Our Pediatrician gave us the thumbs up on giving Declan Melatonin, a natural sleep aid, at bedtime.

Vitamin D/ Tart Cherry Juice

These are 3 other supplements to help assist with sleep.  I give Declan Vitamin D supplements when he is having a harder time sleeping through the night.  I put it in his morning apple juice and notice improvements in his sleep that night.  He sleeps for more hours at a time.  Vitamin D has shown to improve sleep as well as other autism symptoms, as discussed here.

Tart Cherry Juice has been shown to assist with sleep as well, as shown here.  The Tart Cherries have a high level of exogenous Melatonin inside of them which helps promote sleep, as discussed here.

OUTSIDE

Correlating with Vitamin D, is that ability for NATURAL SUNLIGHT to be absorbed by the body.  There are a ton of articles on the benefits of being outside to decrease symptoms of depression, increase sleep.  The sunlight boosts your bodies natural Vitamin D production.

Declan has a hard time playing on our street.  There is too much freedom.  He does not here me yell, “Car!” and he is hard to keep up with at times.  A playground is the best place for him.  It is a designated area where he can play.  And since I know that he sleeps better at night spending time outside, I try to get him outside playtime daily.

Exercise

If you exercise and move around a lot, you tire out, right?  Yep.

Some days are inside days.  That means Declan will send a lot of time jumping on his mini trampoline or riding his Krazy Kar.  Declan doesn’t stop moving, and I need to make sure he stays safe in his activities, yet ACTIVE.  The trampoline and krazy kar are perfect indoor activities for Declan and promote sleep.

NO NAPS

Declan stopped napping when he was around 2 years old.  He is not prone to want to nap.   If he has been up all night and does fall asleep, I will let him have a few minutes but will not let him sleep the afternoon away.  He has such a hard time with sleep, that trying to stay on a regular wake cycle, or routine is vital.

I thought once my kids were no longer infants they would sleep through the night.  Unfortunately, sleep disturbances are a part of autism and sleepless nights are something we face in this family.  These are the tools I use to help ensure a night of sleep.  Or at least, some good solid hours of sleep.

How about you?  What do you do to help promote sleep?  Let me know!

*I am not a Doctor.  Before giving any supplement to your child, always best to discuss it with your doctor first.*

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4 thoughts on “7 Ways to Help Your Child With Autism Sleep

  1. Hi!
    Thank you for sharing sleeping tips! 🙂 I did the routine think just like you mentioned, same time, same thing, and every day. One of the biggest challenges for me is ACCEPTING that on the evening I am craving sleep and need her to go to bed early my daughter will most likely be full of energy and give me a hard time to fall asleep. I’m wondering if on the days I’m craving sleep I’m tense and act slightly different, or try to speed things up, throwing her off, and messing up the whole sleep plans. I have to observe it the next time I face this issue. I also try not to do ANYTHING “exciting” close to sleep time that can wire her up because my daughter loves to keep going. My daughter (6 yrs. old) does not have autism so our routines and scenarios are slightly different.

    1. Hello! Yes, I agree. Kids can pick up on our feelings pretty quick. I try not to do anything too exciting either. But sometimes I send my husband up with the kids to get them ready for bed. When I do, I always feel like I handed him a can of soda that he shakes up a lot, and then hands back to me. 🙂 Generally, though – if I can keep everyone on track – we have a better chance of a full night sleep. Thanks for reading!

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