Sleep & Autism: 6 Ways to Better ZZZs

We’ve all experienced sleepless nights; sleep problems are very common, and in children with autism they’re reported to be as high as 80%. If you live in a household with a child on the autism spectrum, chances are if they’re sleep deprived, so are you and the rest of the family. 

Sleep matters… It is critical to our health. Lack of sleep comes with high costs. In the short term, insufficient sleep can affect behavior, mood, attention, and the ability to learn and retain information.  Sleep deprivation impacts brain development, suppresses immune system function, and may lead to a host of health problems including depression, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and more. 

Many factors can contribute to sleep difficulties such as environmental influences including noise, light, and temperature. For children with autism studies suggest problems are compounded by circadian rhythm cycle disturbances and abnormal melatonin regulation. Sensory processing also comes into play for children sensitive to sound, light and touch. Children may be anxious about bedtime, and have difficulty recognizing social cues that indicate that it’s time to sleep.  

Understanding the importance of sleep, and contributors to sleep disturbance, let’s focus on some solutions for more restful nights. 

6 Steps to Better ZZZ’s   

1) Keep a Sleep Diary- Keep track of time of sleep, frequency and duration of night waking, wake time each morning, and sleep duration. This will help you identify patterns and factors contributing to sleep problems, and to monitor progress.

2) Create a Routine- Establish a pattern for sleep to help your child recognize the social cues for bedtime including a quiet pre-sleep transition activity such as reading or a warm bath, soft lighting in the bedroom, quieting the home, setting a regular time to go to bed, as well as to wake.

3) Limit Screen Time- Televisions, computer, tablets, and smart phones should not be used at least one hour before bed. Light from these screens suppresses the normal night time release of melatonin by as much as 30%. Melatonin is a key hormone in the body clock that tells your body that it is night, and time to sleep.  

4) Create a Haven- The bedroom should be a sanctuary for sleep. Keep playtime and other activities limited to other rooms in the home.  The goal is to create a safe, calm, and distraction-free environment which is dark, quiet, and a comfortable temperature. 

5) Replace Old Mattress- Improve sleep efficiency by using a 100% non-toxic, medical grade mattress from intelliBED that provides pressure relief.  This will safeguard from toxic off-gassing and offer the support the body needs for relaxing sleep. 

6) Reset with Sound- The right sounds can actually improve brain rhythms for better sleep making it easier to go to sleep and stay asleep. Try neuroscience based music and sounds created from research helping NASA get astronauts to sleep in space. This technology is available in two natural sleep aides, the Sleep Genius mobile apps for Android and iOS, and the clinical grade TLP SLEEP system. 

I hope these six steps help you and your family to get the vital sleep you need for your mental, physical, and emotional health.   

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alex Doman is the founder and CEO of Advanced Brain Technologies, creators of The Listening Program. He is also founder and chief scientist of mobile health company Sleep Genius, and best selling co-author of Healing at the Speed of Sound.  

The third generation in a family of pioneers in the field of child and human brain development, Alex has focused his career on sound, music, and technology and their capacity to improve brain health and performance.  Alex is frequently interviewed by the media for television, radio, and print publications; he lectures internationally, and has written for publications including SI Focus Magazine, Autism Asperger’s Digest, Autism Science Digest, and Cutting Edge Therapies for Autism.

Visit advancedbrain.com and sleepgenius.com for more information and resources. Connect with Alex on his blog, Facebook and Twitter.    

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