Sleep problems in kids with Autism are quite common and as per some experts, kids with autism have sleep disorders. This is observed more in developing children where insufficient sleep results in learning problems, drowsiness during daytime and quite a few behavioural issues like aggression or hyperactivity. As per a recent survey, kids with sleep problems show more problematic behaviours as compared to 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 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 the following sleep hours for kids which are 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 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.
Predictable Routine: 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 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 can even get back to sleep during any brief awakenings in the night.
A little exercise or play time during the day can help kids fall asleep early at night. Kids who play a lot or even exercise tend to have a much deeper sleep. But do remember to avoid any exercise during late evenings as it is 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. 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 issues that 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 can consult a sleep specialist as well.
As a conclusion, it can be said that sleep problems are common with (in) kids with autism, but with a little help and patience, parents can improve the sleep time of these kids. This will in turn improve the child’s daytime functioning as well.