Autism Sleeping Tips

After a recent trip to the autism show in London,, I was listening to  one of the speakers on how to help get your child to sleep and noted the following useful tips. We’re due to attend a sleep clinic with our son next week so none of the below have been put into practise yet. I’ll update the blog over the next few weeks with how it all went.

  • Obvious one – darkness. Use a blackout blind (already got) but I never understood the science behind it. If our son has a particularly bad night we use melatonin as many autistic children don’t naturally produce enough to help them sleep. What I hadn’t realised is that it’s light, or the lack of, that produces it naturally. The less light your eye detects the more of the stuff is produced!
  • Plain bedroom. Essentially the room should be nice and welcoming, a place your child doesn’t mind being, but it shouldn’t be full of toys and other items that will cause stimulation and evoke play. A few items of comfort are acceptable though, e.g. teddy. The child should recognise it as a place to calm down and sleep.
  • Natural pattern of tiredness. Look at first to only put the child to bed when they’re tired and work your way backwards. Our son’s bedtime at the moment is about 18:45 but he doesn’t end up going to sleep until hours later. The idea is to put him to bed instead at about 21:45 when he is very tired so he will sleep soon after. Then day after day move it down by five minutes until you reach the desired time you want them to go to bed. If they’re not asleep within 15 minutes of being put to bed they weren’t tired enough.
  • Set bed time. Once bed time has been established that’s set in stone. The child will naturally wind down and expect to go to bed at a certain time each day.
  • In a relaxed state when it’s time for bed. If your child gets stressed when brushing teeth, taking medicine, having a bath, etc. don’t do these things right before bedtime but a long time before.
  • Bath before bed. As long as this activity doesn’t upset your child it is a useful exercise as it help lower the body temperature correctly for sleeping especially in the summer.
  • Reading a relaxing story. Can help calm the child but should only be done if relaxing, not stimulating.
  • Massage/talking. Perform this and other activities but only if it helps calm and relax and assist the child to sleep not if stimulates or excites.
  • Keep robotic. When it’s time to leave the room keep it simply and have little eye contact or interaction.
  • Child should go to sleep on their own. It’s important for them to put themselves to sleep rather than having someone in the room singing/holding their hand. If necessary stay in the room but move closer to the door each night, even if it’s 5cm a night.
  • Rewards. If necessary rewarding the child for going to sleep / not getting up too early can be used.
  • Pictures. If the child is worried about sleeping and not waking up then use pictures to show them a child going to sleep/waking in the morning to re-enforce that’s normal and nothing to worry about.
  • Sleeping bags/weighted blankets. These can help make the child feel more secure and give them the pressure and sensory feedback they need to help them sleep.
  • Bedtime process. Once the bedtime routine has started all the daytime activities and toys should be off limits. The child needs to know they can’t jump on the trampoline, play with the train track, basically it’s winding down and time for bed!