Sleeping Tips for the Child with Autism
I am going to be completely honest, we are 7 years in to this journey, and we still sometimes have struggles with my son who is on the autism spectrum sleeping all night, every night.
However, it has improved so very much over the years. He now sleeps an average of 7-8 hours a night; sometimes he prefers the couch rather than his bed, but at least he is sleeping, right?
On those nights he doesn’t sleep, the next day is a struggle for him. It is hard for him to concentrate. He is definitely more moody. And he has some anxiety which is usually pretty well controlled. I can relate. The same happens to me when I don't sleep well.
I easily remember the days in which I completely dreaded nighttime. I knew it was going to be miserable. There would be screams and tantrums and crying. That led in to the years of high anxiety and which led to him being scared to be in his bed or in his room.
I have tried many things over the years and I am going to share the ones I feel were the most beneficial.
Thankfully, my son is very active and it is not hard to get him to exercise; he currently loves Tae Kwon Do, basketball and jumping in his trampoline. By the way, I cannot say enough good things about martial arts for kids on the spectrum or kids with ADHD! It offers so many benefits from confidence, to coordination, to strength building, to teaching life skills, respect and discipline. It has been amazing for him!
Another side note, trampolines are amazing for kids overall health as well. Aside from just being an amazing form of exercise, it has an official name of rebound therapy which has been proven to assist in detoxifying the body (through stimulating the lymphatic system) and improving the immune system. Additionally, trampolines are an amazing therapy for our sensory kiddos!
Exercise releases many “feel good” endorphins which help them concentrate better, have more energy and reduces inflammation in the body ( the chronic inflammation leads to pain, lack of concentration, lack of sleep, negative behaviors, and even speech impairments).
Limit Screen Time
The more time my son spends on his phone or tablet, the more behaviors we have and the less sleep he has. I don’t need anything scientific to know how negatively it can affect my child—but there is science behind it 😉
I am a big believer in music being healing. Now I know this in itself is not a cure all for those sleepless nights, but it is certainly a great addition to other modalities you are using. Specifically, 432 HZ music (google it:)) for deep sleep.
Once we had my son tested for food sensitivities and removed the foods he was highly intolerant to, sleep and anxiety improved significantly. He was eating eggs almost daily for breakfast and is IgG food sensitivity test came back very high for egg whites. You can read more about food sensitivities here.
Supplements can be very beneficial and sometimes necessary. Our kids are lacking in many vitamins/minerals due to inability to absorb nutrients sufficiently. Making sure they are supplementing with the needed nutrients specific to them is very helpful.
Here is a list of some additional supplements which may be helpful for sleep.
This article sums up the benefits and possibly necessity for melatonin in some kids on the autism spectrum. Melatonin is a necessary hormone necessary for sleep that is deficient more often than not in our kids on the spectrum. My son used melatonin effectively for a while, but recently it seems to cause more night waking. This is a great one to start with, though.
I like to use Herb Pharm tinctures. They are high quality, safe and effective. Herb Pharm has a blend specially formulated for kids called Fast Asleep. Others which are safe for children and can be found in a tincture or used as tea are:
GABA is an amino acid that promotes relaxation. It is especially beneficial for those with anxiety.
This is one of the most beneficial supplements for our kids for so many reasons but is especially effective for relaxation and sleep. An Epsom salt bath with a few drops of lavender oil right before bed is a great way to absorb this much needed mineral.
I will be happy to answer any questions you may have, so comment below or message me privately.
Mullington, J., et.al, Sleep loss and inflammation, Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010 Oct; 24(5): 775–784.