Autism affects individuals of all ages, races, and gender. Autism rates have nearly tripled since 2002, and there is a strong relationship between autism and sleep issues. Lack of sleep can increase the frequency of outbursts and tantrums, and improved sleep can decrease hyperactivity, aggression, and inattentiveness.
Why Do Individuals with Autism Struggle to Sleep?
An individual with autism may struggle to go to sleep or stay asleep for many reasons. They might have trouble winding down, have sensory difficulties, or irregular sleep patterns. Individuals with autism might also have social cueing problems, where they don’t make the connection that other people in the house are going to bed in order to sleep. There are also studies that link autism to melatonin, a sleep related hormone, deficiencies.
Children with Autism
Nearly 80 percent of children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) suffer from sleep issues and disorders. Poor sleep can result in the increase of undesirable behaviors and learning problems. You can help your child by explaining to them what sleep is and reassuring them that they are safe when they are asleep. Additionally, encouraging your child to sleep alone will teach them to put themselves back to sleep as opposed to relying on a parent to do so. Naps might also be helpful for autistic children, but they should not be taken late in the day because that can interfere with their sleep at night.
Adults with Autism
Autistic adults can also struggle with sleep. This can be due to caffeine or exercise habits. Caffeine should be avoided before bed and can be found not only in coffee, but also in chocolate and sodas. Exercise can help autistic individuals sleep better, but should also be avoided too close to bedtime, as it can increase energy levels making it more difficult to fall asleep.
How to Get Better Sleep
Here are some techniques to improve sleep in individuals with autism:
Provide an ideal sleep environment: your child’s bedroom should be
dark, quiet, and a cool temperature. If your child is sensitive to certain noises or if they have sensory issues, their sleeping environment should be adjusted to reflect their needs and make them as comfortable as possible. Weighted blankets can also help because they provide comfort from overstimulation, relieve stress, reduce distraction from other senses, and promote feelings of calmness.
- Establish a routine: A bedtime routine for an individual with autism should be relatively short. This can include reading or listening to soft music, but stimulating electronics such as TV, tablets, or video games should be avoided. It is also beneficial to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day.
Let Us Help You Get a Good Night’s Sleep
At Mattress Warehouse, we believe everyone deserves a goodnight sleep and a good mattress. While individuals with autism may struggle to fall asleep, these tips paired with the right mattress can help them to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Be sure to visit a Mattress Warehouse store near you to talk with a sleep expert about which mattresses, pillows, and other accessories would be best for everyone in your house to have a great night’s sleep.