As a parent of a child with Autism one of the most difficult and exhausting things you may ever experience is the child’s inability to go to sleep and stay asleep. You may experience sleepless nights that you feel you may not be able to endure while your newly diagnosed Autistic three-year-old lays wide awake in bed laughing for hours and hours.
Unless you have experienced sleepless nights for days on end caused by an Autistic child who doesn’t go to sleep or wakes up after only a few hours you cannot know the sense of desperation that parents feel. You and your partner may so feel drained and overwhelmed that all you can is cry. Unable to continue to function on just a few hours of sleep, you may start talking to other parents of Autistic children and searching the internet to find out what to do to help your child get to sleep at night. You may find many different things to try, some will work, and some won’t but then every child is different.
To help parents who are having sleep difficulties with their Autistic child the below list of ten helpful tips and strategies might help you to get and or keep your child asleep at night.
Ten Tips to Help Get Your Autistic Child to Sleep
These specially weighted blankets can help Autistic children who have a tactile or proprioceptive dysfunction get to sleep at night. The deep pressure provided by the weighted blanket both calms and relaxes the child’s Autism and making sleep possible. Weighted blankets can be purchased online. Here are some options you may want to consider.
1. Sensory Weighted Lap Pad for Kids 5 pounds – Great Weighted Lap Blank for Kids with Autism, ADHD, and Sensory Processing Disorder – Classroom and Special Education Supplies
Help your child stay calm if they tend to fidget. The blanket has a lifetime guarantee and is made in the USA. 1% of sales go to the University of Washington Autism Clinic.
2. SensoryMoon 5lb Weighted Blanket for Kids w Neck Cut Out, Washable Navy Blue Minky Dot Duvet C Cover, Heavy Glass Beads, 36×48 Calming Sensory Therapy for 30-50 lb. Toddler Child Boy Girl Autism Anxiety
The blanket is filled with beads that spread weight across the body using the science of Deep Touch Pressure to calm your child in bed. There is a neck cut out to create a true full-body relaxing experience. Designed to stay strong and not leak, they are machine washable.
3. MAXID Toddler Weighted Blanket 3 lbs. 36”x48” Violet Heavy Blanket for Sleeping Purple Child Comfort Sensory Blankets for Girls & Boys
This toddler weighted blanket is designed for children weighing between 19 to 40 pounds. One side is made with cuddle fabric, the other side is smooth. Helps toddlers relax, fall asleep, and stay asleep for longer.
4. Roore 5 lb. Weighted Blanket for Kids | 36”x48” | Weighted Blanket with Plush Minky Red Removable Cover | Weighted with Premium Glass Beads | Perfect for Children from 40 to 60 lb.
Available in 5, 10, 15 and 20 lbs. with each weight being a different dimension. The blankets are designed to be 8% to 12% of the child’s body weight. Two-part construction so you don’t have to wash the entire blanket.
5. Sivio Kids Weighted Blanket, 5 lbs., 36 x 48 inches, 100% Natural Cotton Heavy Blanket for Kids and Toddler, Blue Dinosaur
Made of 100% cotton, the blankets provide breathability and temperature control to prevent children from tossing and turning from sweating. The blanket uses non-toxic glass beads. Designed to resemble a mom’s hug and keeps children from losing their cover at night.
A soothing bath in Epsom salt given before bedtime can help relax your child with Autism which makes getting him or her to sleep much easier. To give your child an Epsom salt bath dissolve one to two cups of Epsom salt in hot water and then pour it into a tub of warm water. Once your child is in the tub, have them soak for 20 minutes. It’s not necessary to wash the Epsom salt off after bathing unless the child feels itchy.
If your child is having difficulty sleeping at night you might ask your pediatrician if its ok to give a supplement containing melatonin just before bedtime. Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally released by the body to aid with sleep. Children with Autism can have an imbalance in melatonin production and or release that leads to problems with their sleep cycle. Melatonin is available over the counter at many drug and health food stores or online. As with any supplement or medication, consult a medical practitioner before use.
Exposure to sunlight can aid in the body’s production of melatonin and help the body’s internal clock to reset itself. According to The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke an hour a day of exposure to morning sunlight can help those who have problems falling asleep at night.
Avoiding caffeine and other stimulants can help some children with Autism get to sleep. When we think of caffeine most of us with children automatically think of soda. However, caffeine can also be found in chocolate and some pain relievers and medications. In addition, avoid foods with added sugar or additives in the two hours prior to bedtime.
Many children with Autism also have sensory processing disorder and can be constantly bombarded with sound as they don’t have the ability to tune out extraneous noise. Use of a white noise machine at bedtime can help an Autistic child get to sleep by drowning out all the other noises in the room and helping them to focus on just one set of sounds which can lead to relaxation and sleep. You can purchase a white noise machine online.
1. bA1 Sensory Light Toy for Autism Kids – Calming Special Needs LED Night Light Projector – Sensory Room Item – Music + 8 Color Options
This is the perfect tool for autistic children or kids with children with sensory processing disorders. Helps children relax so they can fall asleep quicker. Mimics an ocean experience with sounds and waves. The machine shuts off after an hour to save power.
2. White Noise Sound Machine | Portable Sleep Therapy for Home, Office, Baby & Travel | 6 Relaxing & Soothing Nature Sounds, Battery or Adapter Charging Options, Auto-Off Timer | HoMedics Sound Spa
The machine has six soothing sounds designed to mimic the natural environment. It is a compact size allowing you to carry it with you while traveling. It has an automatic timer to turn the machine off after 15, 30, or 60 minutes.
The product produces relaxing waves on the ceiling. The relaxing multicolor LED mimics the movement of ocean waves. It is made of plastic and has a 1-year warranty.
4. Calming Autism Sensory LED Light, Ocean Projector Night Light, 16 Modes Colorful Projector Lamp and Rotation, Sea Animals Show on Nursery Kids Bedroom for Relax
The night light projector projects different sea animals that rotate 360 degrees. There are warm light and red, blue, and green light with 8 modes. Powered by 4 AAA batteries or a USB cable.
For children with Autism a fifteen-minute massage just before bedtime can help them calm and relax their bodies. This can lead to a better sleep cycle. To perform massage on your child apply medium pressure in smooth stroking movements to the head and neck, arms and hands, body, and legs and feet. If massage makes your child feel uncomfortable or they are resistant, then discontinue use.
Heavy Work Activities
Participating in heavy work activities prior to bed can aid Autistic children with sensory processing difficulties by helping them to organize and calm their sensory systems. This will help them to sleep better by reducing the chance that their sleep is disrupted by extraneous sensory input. Heavy work activities can be things like carrying stacks of books from place to place, pushing against a large ball while resistance is applied, playing catch or rolling a heavy ball across the floor, etc. To pick the best heavy work activities for your child consult with his or her occupational therapist.
Create A Bedtime Schedule
Some children with Autism do well following written schedules. To help this type of child get to bed at night introduce a picture or written bedtime schedule posted somewhere that they can see. The Do 2 Learn website has great schedules that you can download for your own use.
Cut Down on Distractions
To help your child with Autism get to sleep cut down on distractions in their bedroom. Use heavy curtains on the windows to block out light from outside. It is better not to have a television or computer in their bedroom. If there are, make sure they are turned off. The bright screen of a computer or television can reset the bodies internal clock and make getting to sleep much more difficult. In addition, try to keep noise in other parts of the house down to a minimal amount while your child is trying to get to sleep.
These ten sleep tips are easy for parents to implement at home and require minimal equipment. However, it’s important to remember that all children respond differently and what works for one child might not work for another. Hang in there and keep trying until you come up with what works best for your child.
Before using Melatonin or massage consult with your pediatrician and or occupational therapist. They may recommend using a specific dosage for your child, or they may recommend something else entirely to help your child with Autism get to sleep.