If your child has autism and bedtimes have become a nightmare, here are five tips from Antonia Chitty and Victoria Dawson, authors of Sleep and Your Special Needs Child that may help to make bedtime easier.
- Keep a sleep diary and see if you can work out any patterns to your child’s sleep issues. Share the information with your child’s health care providers and ask if there is a sleep service in your area that you can access.
- Go visual! Use a visual timetable in the run up to bedtime so that your child can understand what is going to happen throughout the evening. Often children have little concept of time so this can help to support their understanding that favourite activities are going to come to an end.
- Think about your child’s daytime behaviour to try to assist in understanding their night time behaviour. A sound sensitive child may well wake up if the heating clicks on or a neighbour starts their car. Once you can understand what is contributing to the sleep difficulties you can identify appropriate strategies.
- Some research suggests that children on the autistic spectrum do not create enough melatonin to help them to fall asleep easily. Television viewing can actually hinder melatonin production further so it is sound advice to avoid any screens in the hour leading up to bedtime this includes mobile phones and computer screens.
- Sleep problems can be complex and it is important to try to identify whether your child’s sleep issues are behaviour based or medically based, ask your health practitioners for guidance make sure that you tell them about any unusual night time behaviours such as snoring, teeth grinding or night terrors too.
Take each tip, one at a time, and see if it might help you. It can be overwhelming when your child is struggling to sleep, as you may well be sleep deprived too. Make one small change at a time. If you want more help, Sleep and Your Special Needs Child addresses sleep problems using a highly successful behavioural and cognitive approach to sleep management, and is the first book to explain these approaches in detail. The practical advice contained is invaluable for parents who want to feel more in control and more confident about tackling sleep issues in a way that is appropriate for their child. If you need more help, you can also contact The Children’s Sleep Charity. The charity works with children from the age of 1 so they and their parents are supported to get a good night’s sleep.