Sleep Problems in Children with Autism

It’s no secret that sleep is vital for so many reasons. Getting a good night’s sleep can help with growth, development, learning, memory, attention, social situations, and much more. Individuals with autism often find themselves having difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. In fact, sleep problems in children with autism are as high as 80%. Not getting enough rest can cause certain autistic conditions, including repetitive behaviors, to worsen. It can also cause daytime sleepiness, behavioral issues, learning problems, and aggression.

Children with autism generally take about 11 minutes longer to fall asleep and may wake up frequently during the night. They spend about 15% of their sleeping time in the REM stage whereas individuals not on the spectrum spend about 23% of their night in REM sleep.

Good Bedtime Habits

There are several ways in which parents and caregivers can help improve their child’s sleep. Establishing a good, healthy routine is one important way to fix sleep problems. This may include:

Setting a regular bedtime- Having your child go to bed around the same time each night encourages better sleep patterns. To determine what time your child should go to bed, it is important to look at what time your child needs to wake up and how alert they are during the day. It is also important to try to keep the same bedtime on the weekends and during holidays.

Creating bedtime routines- Having a routine of a bath, healthy snack, and story may help. After doing the routine for some time, your child will catch on and understand what is expected of them next. Give your child updates such as “30 more minutes before it’s time for bed”. Visual supports may help your child understand the steps as well. When your child completes the routine correctly, you could give them stickers on a chart. Always praise them for completing the steps successfully.

Creating a comfortable sleep environment- This includes having a cool, dark room that is quiet and as comfortable as possible. It is important to remove objects from their room that might stop your child from falling asleep or sleeping comfortably.

Avoiding screens- If your child has a difficult time relaxing and settling for bed, it could be due to watching TV or playing a tablet right before bed. Limit screen time for at least an hour before bedtime.

Getting exercise- Going on a walk or playing outside can help encourage your child to be more active, burning off some of the energy they have built up throughout the day.

Removing naps- If you have a preschooler, naps are still okay. As your child gets older, make sure they are not napping as this could prevent them from going to sleep at their bedtime.

Contact Our Autism Treatment Center

The SEED Center provides center-based and in-home ABA therapy services to Stamford, Greenwich, and Norwalk, CT, as well as other areas in Fairfield County. With our home-based autism services, your child will have the opportunity to learn and implement skills in the comfort of their homes. This may include daily activities and routines such as getting dressed, toilet training, bedtime routines, and more. If your child is diagnosed with autism and you’re looking for an ABA facility that will work with you on nighttime routine contact the Seed Center. We can discuss treatment options and provide you with the support you are looking for. Call today!