We’ve all felt the implications of poor sleep before. For example, you may have felt irritable, less focused or even a little sick as a result. However, while this is an occasional issue for most of us, children (and adults) with autism and related disorders often find it harder than most to get enough sleep.


How much sleep do we need?


The National Sleep Foundation states that children should sleep for 9-11 hours a day, depending on their age. As an adult, we should aim for around 7-8 hours of sleep in order to thrive.


Do children with autism find it harder to fall asleep?


Various studies have determined that “children with ASD have a higher prevalence of sleep issues than their typically developing peers.” For example, they are more likely to develop insomnia and similar conditions. In fact, “ children with autism tend to sleep 32.8 minutes less per night than their peers”. While this may not seem to be a significant difference, an extra thirty minutes of deep sleep can work wonders for their mood and overall health.


How can I help my child with autism get more sleep?


Develop a consistent bedtime routine. Children with ASD thrive when they’re given a routine to work with, as they provide them with a sense of structure and stability. As a result, a bedtime routine can be instrumental in helping them unwind and get ready for bed. This could also mean they find it easier to drift off, especially if their head hits the pillow at the same time each evening.


Keep their bedroom cool. We all like to feel warm and cozy as we settle into bed, particularly during the winter months. However, a cooler “sleeping environment helps lower your body temperature, making it easier to experience deep sleep.” This, coupled with the fact that children with ASD are often rather sensitive to heat and temperature changes, means you should try to keep their bedroom as cool as possible.


Reduce noise.  We’ll all struggle to fall asleep in noisy environments, but it can be particularly hard for children with noise sensitivities to drift off. As a result, you should find a way to make their bedroom as quiet and peaceful as possible. For example, you could take steps to soundproof their room or find comfortable earplugs they can wear at night.


Focus on their comfort. Adjusting their bedroom to match their comfort needs could also be a crucial step in ensuring your child is able to get as much sleep as possible. For example, while some children may need complete darkness in order to sleep, others may find comfort in having some kind of nightlight in their rooms. You should also try to choose bedding and pyjamas that are comfortable and don’t interfere with any sensitivity issues your child experiences. For example, you may need to avoid certain fabrics or textures, as this will otherwise limit their ability to sleep comfortably.


Discuss sleep patterns in therapy. Therapeutic interventions are a great way to help children with autism thrive in their daily lives. As a result, your therapist will likely also have some advice to hand that you can use to ensure your child is getting their recommended 9+ of sleep each night.



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