It is not unnatural for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders to have trouble sleeping. If your child has been having problems with falling asleep or sleeping calmly lately, you need to know that this can change with some effort on your part. The 5 tips below will acquaint you with practices that, if taken into consideration and practiced regularly, can change your child’s sleeping habits and improve the quality of sleep for both them and you.
Tip 1 – Keep a Sleep Diary
A sleeping diary may help you find a pattern in your child’s problems with sleep. With its help, you can find out if the sleeping problems occur after particular activities and what enforces them. In the sleeping diary, you can keep track of the routine of your child – what they eat and drink at dinner and when dinner is, if they have a snack (when and what), what time they go to bed, when they fall asleep, how much they sleep, when they get up and if they have any naps. You can also note what problem/problems they have every day – if they don’t want to go to bed, if they can’t fall asleep, if they feel afraid or uncomfortable to sleep alone, sleepwalking, bedwetting, waking up in the middle of the night, etc. All this can help you figure out where the problems come from - if the culprit lies in particular drinks, food or activities - and how to avoid them.
Tip 2 – Prepare Your Child
Sleep is a process that can be affected by many factors. If there are any activities or habits that make your child energised or excited, it will obviously be good to avoid them before bed time. This may include drinking energising drinks, eating chocolate or sugar, eating late dinner, watching TV, playing video games and so on. On the other hand, some activities may have the opposite effect. For example, listening to a story before going to bed or quiet talking may be beneficial. Make sure your child has pyjamas that are soft and label-free, and that he or she enjoys the feel of the bed and bedding, too.
Tip 3 – Introduce Sleeping Rules
When it comes to ASD, routine is the way to make things happen the right way. Routine with specific rules can help with sleeping problems, too. For example, you may need to make it clear that the bedroom is for sleeping only. If your child associates it with playing and activities requiring energy it may be hard for them to relax in the same area. You can also start certain traditions and habits that may help make your child eager to fall asleep – putting the toys to sleep, drawing the curtains - helping put your child’s focus on sleep.
Tip 4 – Take Care of Sleepwalking
Children with ASD often sleepwalk or wander after bed time. In order to maintain their safety and the sleep of other inhabitants of the house, it is worth installing a system that notifies you when the child gets out of bed or tries to get out of the room. Some parents rely on baby monitors to listen in to what happens in the room but others choose a camera based system so they can see the child in his or her bed. Other systems have an alarm that will go off if the child goes out of the door. When you find out that your child is up and sleepwalking, try to direct them back to bed and sleep without waking them up.
Tip 5 – Try Alternative Medicine
There are many products that help people with sleep disorders, including medicines, therapies, etc. If you are planning to try a medicine, it is advisable that you consult a doctor. The options include Melatonin and Tryptophan. You can also look for foods and drinks that will help your child get to sleep, such as hazelnuts, warm milk or mango. Another option is massage – different techniques may relax your child and make them more prone to falling asleep. In such cases, relaxing music can also be of help.Remember that these tips may work very well or not work at all depending on the person – every child with ASD is different so you need to find the best way for your child to get over their sleeping problems. However, where there is a will – there is a way, so don’t lose hope. Try out ifferent methods until you find the one that works for you.