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Autism and Sleep: An Extraordinary Exploration of Rest!

November 29, 2022

Did you know that restful sleep is essential to raising a healthy child on the spectrum? It’s so critical that many autism experts believe sleep can be a vital key to unlocking a neurodivergent child’s full potential. When children on the spectrum get enough sleep, they focus and learn more effortlessly. This can significantly improve outcomes for important therapies like Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and occupational or speech therapy.

Autism and sleep are important topics to understand because restorative sleep is essential for the wellness of neurodivergent children. It helps them be who they really are and vastly improves their time spent with friends and family. In this blog post about autism and sleep, we will explore common problems, benefits, and how you can help your neurodivergent child get the rest they need!

Signs of Sleep Deprivation in Children with Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complicated neurodevelopmental disorder that can cause many issues, including difficulty with communication, sensory sensitivities, and behavioral challenges. Many children with autism also have difficulty sleeping, which can lead to sleep deprivation and worsening autism symptoms. Autism and sleep are integral to consider as a parent. Without proper rest, your child may exhibit an increase in symptoms. These include but are not limited to the following:

  • Irritability
  • Hyperactivity
  • Socially withdrawnness
  • Increased repetitive behaviors
  • Difficulty concentrating

If you suspect your child on the spectrum is not getting enough sleep, look for signs such as excessive rubbing of the eyes or yawning throughout the day. You may also notice that they are quieter or have less energy than usual. Sometimes, your child may fall asleep at inopportune times, like during playgroup or a therapy session. If your child passes out during free time or a preferred activity, it indicates that they are experiencing some sleep deprivation.

If you are worried about your child’s autism and sleep habits, talk to their doctor about ways to improve their rest. Additionally, discuss your child’s symptoms and sleep hygiene with their therapists and behavioral agency. Understanding the gravity of autism and sleep is essential. Lack of rest can negatively impact developmental outcomes and behavior, leading to long-term consequences and additional stress.

Common Sleep Problems in Children with Autism

For children with autism, sleep can be elusive. Various factors can contribute to sleep problems in neurodivergent children, including anxiety, sensory processing issues, and gastrointestinal disorders. In some cases, sleep problems may be caused by medication side effects. Whatever the cause of sleep deprivation, it should be taken seriously.

Having autism can affect every aspect of sleep, from falling to staying asleep. It’s vital to be aware of the most common problems affecting autism and sleep. A prevalent disturbance of autism and sleep is difficulty falling asleep. This can be due to worries about dreaming, sensory sensitivities that make it difficult to relax, or problems with the sleep-wake cycle.

In addition, many children with ASD have trouble staying asleep throughout the night, which can lead to sleep deprivation. This is often due to nightmares or sleepwalking. Children with ASD may also experience irregular sleep patterns, making it difficult to get enough rest. Additionally, sleep problems were linked to less eye contact and reduced participation in children with autism.

Autism and sleep are different for every child, but these are common sleeping problems among children with the condition. You can help your child get the best possible sleep and recognize problem areas by being aware of these issues related to autism and sleep.

How Lack of Sleep Can Trigger Negative Behaviors in Children with ASD

A healthy night’s rest is essential for everyone, but it’s especially crucial for children with autism. A lack of sleep can trigger negative behaviors in children with autism, such as aggression, self-injury, and tantrums. When a child on the spectrum is overly tired or sleep-deprived, it can be an intense experience that results in severe discomfort for everyone. This distress can make it nearly impossible to function. Making sleep a priority in your home can lessen problem behaviors and set your neurodivergent child up for a successful day.

Autism and Sleeping Better

Four simple steps to improve sleep for children with autism:

1) Establish a Regular Bedtime Routine.

Creating a regular sleep regimen is critical and will improve your child’s overall sleep hygiene. Additionally, it’s essential to stick to this routine as much as possible. This will help cue your child’s body that it’s time to unwind for the night, improving conditions for autism and sleep.

2) Create a Calm and Relaxing Environment in Your Child’s Bedroom.

Your child’s bedroom should be free of loud noise or bright lights. If possible, try to keep the room dark, quiet, and at a cool temperature. This will ensure your child is comfortable throughout the night.

3) Avoid Giving Your Child Any Caffeine after Lunchtime.

Caffeine can be a disaster for autism and sleep! Do your best to check labels before serving snacks or drinks closer to bedtime.

4) Limit Screen Time Before Bed.

Bright screens can make it more difficult for children to fall asleep. Try to limit TV and iPad time a few hours before bed to ensure your child is ready for sleep.

Following these tips can help ensure your child gets the rest they need to feel their best!

Benefits of Sleep for Neurodivergent Children

There is growing evidence that sleep plays an essential role in brain development and function. For children with autism, good sleep habits can help improve behavior, test scores, working memory, social skills, and cognition. Researchers also found that children with autism who slept better had enhanced communication and more positive interactions than those who did not.

Benefits of Sleep for Autism Parents

Autism and sleep can be a lot for parents to handle. Between the meltdowns, impulse control issues, and never-ending appointments, it can be easy to forget the importance of rest. However, one of the essential things that parents can do for their neurodivergent children is to get enough sleep. A good night’s sleep helps to improve a parent’s mood, concentration, and overall health. It also gives them the energy they need to parent more effectively.

The Importance of Understanding Autism and Sleep Hygiene

Sleep is critical for all children but significant for those on the autism spectrum. Autism treatments like ABA therapy can help your children acquire many skills for independence but require effort and attention. If parents don’t understand their child’s autism and sleep hygiene, they can’t work on establishing healthy routines. Awareness is essential here.

Understanding the impact sleep has on your child and taking critical action to improve it helps them reap the full benefits of therapy options. Awareness around sleep leads to better rest, ensuring your child wakes up ready to learn!

ABA Centers of America Cares About Autism and Sleep

ABA Centers of America understands the critical value of sleep for autism families. We additionally comprehend that autism and sleep can be a source of stress for many families on the spectrum. Our ABA therapy reinforces good habits like winding down, limiting screen time, and communicating essential needs.

Our ABA therapy approach offers your child tools to care for themselves, establish healthy routines and reduce anxiety. We understand that your neurodivergent child is unique and may require a different approach to getting good sleep. Our ABA specialists are dedicated to reaching your child on their level and establishing trust. Additionally, our ABA teams can help parents address core issues that may impact autism and sleep long-term.

For more information about our ABA therapy services and how we can help improve your child’s life with evidence-based treatment options, reach us at call (844) 923-4222 for a free consultation or visit abacenters.com.