Sleep problems in kids with Autism are quite common and as per experts, about 80% of kids with autism have sleep disorders. This is seen more in developing children; insufficient sleep results in learning problems, sleepiness during daytime and quite a number of behavioral issues like aggregation or hyperactivity. As per a recent survey, kids with sleep problems show problematic behaviors than those who are good sleepers.
Some of the most common sleep problems in children with autism are facing difficulty in getting to sleep, waking up repeatedly during nights or waking up quite early. When the child has insufficient sleep, the sleep of either of the parents gets impacted too.
Fortunately, parents can follow a specific routine to improve the sleeping habits in the child. Parents need to first discuss the problem with their healthcare expert. This will help the parents know the amount of sleep the kid needs.
The National Sleep Foundation has recommended sleep hours for kids which is categorized as below,
Preschool Kids – 11 hours – 13 hours
School Going Children – 10 hours – 11 hours
Adolescents – About 9.5 hours
Parents can follow the below mentioned tips to help their kids get a proper good night’s sleep.
The Sleeping Environment:
Make sure that the bedroom is dark, cool and quiet. As kids with autism are sensitive to sounds, it is important to adjust the bedroom environment to that which suits the child.
Just make sure that the bedtime routine is predictable. Parents can keep it short to about 20 minutes and can include some activities like listening to some relaxing music or reading a book. Do not use gadgets or electronics as they are stimulating and will disturb the child’s sleep even further.
The Sleep and Wake up Schedule:
Parents should keep the schedule regular without changing it during the weekdays and the weekends.
Let the Child Fall Asleep Alone:
The child needs to learn to fall asleep by himself/herself. This is considered to be a skill by many. Parents can slowly teach the kid to fall asleep without the presence of a parent. Most kids who sleep by themselves even get back to sleep during any brief awakenings in the night.
A little exercise or play time during the day helps kids fall asleep early in the night. Kids who play a lot or even exercise tend to have much deeper sleep. But do remember to avoid any exercise during late evenings as it is the time close to bedtime.
Parents also need to avoid caffeine as it can alert the kids and make it difficult for them to sleep. Caffeine is also found in chocolates and sodas too. If you observe that your child is taking a nap in the afternoon which is preventing him/her from going to bed early in the night, you can divert the child so that the nap does not interfere with the night’s sleep.
Parents need to address any issues; be it medical or emotional in nature, those are interfering with the child’s sleep. The physician might then adjust the medication if necessary. If your child suffers from issues like sleep apnea or sleep terrors, you might be referred to a sleep specialist as well.
As a conclusion it can be said that sleep problems are common with kids with autism, but with a little help from Autism Connect Association, parents can improve the sleep related issues of these kids. This will in turn improve the kids’ day time functioning as well.