Autism and Sleep

autism and sleep

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

As a Baby

My son has always had difficulties with sleep ever since he was a baby. As a baby, I would have to stand up to rock him back to sleep. If I sat down to rock him, he would cry. I also used a baby bouncer but as soon as I stopped bouncing the chair, most times he would wake up.

From eight months old (when I had to go back to work), he struggled to go to sleep and would wake up throughout the night. When he finally fell asleep, the moment my head hit the pillow my alarm would go off and I would have to get up to go to work.

I remember one time when I tried to make myself a cup of coffee (when feeling tired), I placed the coffee pot and cup in the fridge. Another time, I had to drive my son around in my car on a Friday night to try to get him to fall asleep. However, as soon as the car had stopped, he would wake up and cry.

Disturbed Sleep Pattern

disturbed sleep pattern

As a young child, he would wake up and switch all of the lights on around the house. He has always had a disturbed sleep pattern and would wake up instantly full of energy on little sleep. Even his paediatrician said that some children naturally sleep less and that my child was one of them. At that point, I was laughing and crying at the same time.

His paediatrician discussed with me maybe using Melatonin. At the time I thought that I would have been selfish giving him Melatonin as I had poor quality sleep and would have been doing it because I desperately needed sleep. I did not see it as actually improving his quality of sleep, and it would be in the best interest for his health. In hindsight, I should have tried him out on it.

Anxiety

anxiety image

I struggled with getting my son to sleep in his own room and own bed. When he did sleep in his own room, he would wake up and not see me there and would panic and run into my room.

A social worker at the time suggested that this could be a combination of anxiety and also because his dad no longer lived in the same house as us, a child may think that because their dad has moved out, he would wake up to me also not being there. It definitely has to be noted that anxiety has a huge impact on the quality of sleep. This is from both mine and my son’s experiences.

Weighted Blanket

weighted blanket

I debated about referring my son to a sleep clinic when he was younger to monitor his sleeping patterns. Actually, I purchased a night projector and a white noise box, which initially worked but only for a short period. I even bought a weighted blanket, which initially was great, and I recommend getting one. However, the problem was my son kept on pulling the blanket over his face. I had to go into his room to pull the weighted blanket off of his face.

Blackout Blinds

blackout blinds for sleep
Blackout Blinds

I have redecorated my son’s room and reorganised it to make it more spacious. I even purchased blackout blinds. Blackout blinds are really beneficial, especially in the summertime when it is brighter outside at night-time.

I know personally for my son he associates night-time with it being dark outside so if it is light, he will refuse to go to bed.

My son has debated with me about why he has to go to bed before I do. In his mind, we should have to go to bed at the same time. I had to use a social story to explain to him why.

Memory Foam Mattress

memory foam mattress, sleep, autism
memory foam mattress

An expensive purchase but a lifesaver for me was getting a memory foam mattress with individual air pocketing. I do not know if it is because the mattress adjusts to the body shape but having the mattress has improved my son’s quality of sleep.

Now he has no issue going off to sleep, however, wakes up a couple of times throughout the night. But it is not as bad as it used to be.

Can you relate to the issues discussed in this blog?

Have you got any sleeping tips?

*The contents in this post is based on personal experience. Always seek professional advice from social, health and/or educational providers with regards to a person’s care. The products mentioned in this post were purchased by myself and I have not received any money, or commission for this blog.

5 Comments

  1. Sleep has been one of the hardest things we have had to deal with – or really – lack of sleep. When he was younger, I used to keep a journal of his sleeping pattern. What time did he go down, what time did he get up. Did he nap that day, did he play outside (exposure to natural sunlight the key there), did he have any appointments that day. It was so bad that we had to empty his room and turn the door handle to lock him in his room at night (again, Doctor approved). It was how we knew he was safe – he was non-verbal at the time and would leave our house. We had alarms on the doors, but by the time I may realize he was gone could be too late. So, he would wake up at 1 or 2 AM and bang on his door and I would go get him and take him downstairs so the rest of the family could sleep. Finally, his OT recommended I give him melatonin and the Doctor said it was fine. I started him on 3 mg when he was 2 1/2. he is 7 1/2 now and on 20 mg – which the Doctor still approves. It has been a wonder for us. We use a weighted blanket as well, which he likes as he is a sensory seeker. Also, this is extreme, but he sleeps on a mattress on the floor next to me. He doesn’t like to be alone (he goes to sleep when I do) and I can get him right back in bed if he wakes up. It’s a lot, but we finally found a sleeping pattern that works for us and can sleep until 5:30-6:30 AM most days. I’ll take it! It’s tough! Good luck!