Children within the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are more vulnerable to sleep disturbances. According to research, 44 to 83% of people with autism have sleep-related problems. These disorders adversely affect the behavior and emotional well-being of the child and the family by increasing the frequency of temper tantrums, irritability, and stress.
That is why it is important to help children learn and maintain good sleep habits. Here we offer you some advice on how to accomplish this.
Problematic sleep habits
Regular sleep cycles are influenced by daily routines, and children with ASD sometimes have trouble understanding and following them. Sometimes, they might get attached to unusual sleep habits and have trouble fitting into the regular family routine.
So the first thing you need to do is working on your child’s understanding of routines in general.
Bedtime routines for children within the autism spectrum disorder
- Use a schedule and visual aids showing the bedtime routine, so your child can understand every step.
- Praise your child for understanding and completing each step.
- Put a sticker on the schedule every time your child completes a step correctly. This can help children see the situation as a game and will motivate them to follow the routine.
Appropriate bedtimes for children with ASD
Having an appropriate bedtime is essential for establishing a good routine. But, as we all know, children may have some trouble adapting to it, and it can be even harder for those within the spectrum. Here are a couple of things you can do to help them adopt good sleep habits:
- It is convenient to create a short and simple bedtime routine. Structured activities help children with autism calm down, anticipate what is going to happen next, and think about what they need to do. So, we should create a simple routine consisting of 4 or 5 steps that need to be carried out before going to bed. Something like this, for example:
1-. Brush your teeth.
2-. Drink water.
3-. Read a story in bed.
4-. Turn off the light.
5-. Go to sleep.
- Avoid highly stimulating activities at least two hours before bedtime. Limit things like watching TV or playing videogames, and try to propose relaxing activities, such as reading, listening to classical music, and taking a hot bath.
- Adapt the stimulating conditions to the child’s needs. Some children with autism are extremely sensitive to things like light, sound, and touch. This hypersensitivity can interfere with their sleep, so we must regulate the light entering their room and avoid making loud noises.
It is all about finding the right information and tools to learn what to do. Remember, you must be patient and understanding throughout this whole process, adopting new habits can be a difficult task for your child.
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