Archive for the ‘Sleep’ Category

We all love our sleep, we rely on it to have enough energy to face our day ‘recharge our batteries’ …

The amount of sleep we all need varies from person to person.

When I was younger I always had some sort of anxiety about being asleep, I would always over think the situation. When I was 5 years old my Mum left home and I think that’s where my anxieties began, I would wake several times through the night to check that my Dad hadn’t left, for years I wouldn’t sleep alone and I did sleep-walk on numerous occassions.

Luckily as I’ve grown into adulthood, I don’t sleep walk anymore & my anxieties have more or less gone.

Some children with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder have unusual sleep patterns, with some appearing to need very little sleep and some refusing to sleep alone.

I am lucky, A has always been a very good sleeper.
But we did have problems at one stage getting him to sleep.
I can’t remember how it started but when he was around 9 months old I would cradle him in my arms until he went to sleep…sometimes it would take a few minutes, others it would take an hour or even longer. It was very frustrating and I’d feel so angry that he wouldn’t go to sleep. I’d be thinking, I’ve looked after you all day, I’ve played with you, fed you, changed you, you’ve been awake for hours, why won’t you go to sleep? Sometimes I’d cry – out of frustration.
– This continued until he was about 2 years old, picture that – cradling a 2 year old to sleep…it wasn’t fun and it wasn’t easy!
Then we put him into his own room & to our surprise after ‘chatting’ to himself for about half an hour each night he fell asleep – by himself.

Then came the phase of him waking up everyday between 3.30am & 4.30am and when he wasn’t waking early he was awake for sometimes hours through the night – this was around the time he began displaying Autistic Traits, I would be up from this time everyday and then having to occupy him from that time until bedtime & he didn’t even nap some days. It was exhausting, he wasn’t interested in anything, he would be climbing all day, not eating his meals, flitting from one end of the room to other, stimming & his behaviour was challenging. – luckily he grew out of waking up at this time, but we always had to have music playing in his room.

The underlying cause of sleep related behaviours may be sensory sensitivities such as fear of the dark or over-sensitivity to external noises or just due to a lack of understanding of the bedtime routine.
Resistance to change may mean that your child is reluctant to move from a cot to a bed, or from sleeping near parents to sleeping alone.

You may need to teach sleep skills, such as making sure they are aware its bedtime at a certain time – maybe using visual support.

Modifying the childs room so that s/he can be safely left to play in it should they be awake during the night, won’t stop your child waking up but may help the rest of the family to sleep undisturbed.

If your child responds well to routines, you may try establishing a bedtime routine, through using visual structure that minimises stimulation & helps settling them to sleep.

FEAR of the dark may be helped by a nightlight or a torch

EXTERNAL sounds may be masked by quietly playing some favourite music

THICK curtains or black-out blind can help keep the room darker (I used to dread when the clocks changed which would mean lighter nights)

SOME children can be soothed by being swaddled in heavy sheets and blankets, rather than lighter duvets. Alternatively, children who are over-sensitive to heat may need their bedroom radiator turned off and only a light sheet – even in winter.

IF your child insists on you sleeping next to him or her, gradual change can help, by first sitting on the bed, then a chair nearby, eventually sitting in the doorway or just being upstairs until they fall asleep.

Most sleeping issues relate to children who sleep too little. Sleep deprivation for parents and sometimes siblings is physically and emotionally exhausting. In some severe cases, it may be necessary to seek medical advice and medication considered.

I asked a couple of parents I know who have experienced sleeping problems different to my experience to help you understand just how hard it is.

Parent of a son (7) and daughter (12) both on the Spectrum.

“My daughter who is 12 years old has only just started sleeping through the night within this past year. She would on average wake up 4-5 times per week and need to come downstairs with me. Most nights she would remain awake for the rest of the night-even if she had woken up at 1am.
My son, who is 7 has never really been a great sleeper and wakes during the night 6-7 times per week. He will also not settle in his room so I come down with him. More often than not-he will eventually fall asleep on the sofa but this can be hours after we come down.
I also have never needed much sleep so providing I get 4+ hours I am fine (I’ve had to be, its been happening 12 years) however, when I haven’t had enough/any I do struggle the following day and feel that everything is a chore and I have to try so hard to not get snappy with the children. My son seems to know when I am not feeling 100% and tends to misbehave and makes a hard day 100 times harder! I am usually always tired and really struggle through the day.”

Parent of 3 boys 1 with Cerebal Palsy and 1 with Aspergers & ADHD (14)

“He is nearly 14 years old, has very deprived sleep which means some days he stays awake for 23 hours a day, we work Full time both of us, my husband is up early in the morning, so I do the getting out of bed every night to try to get him off his Xbox, mobile phone, laptop, on a good day he will be in bed by 2am , then I’m up at 6 for work. His attitude is disgusting as he is so sleep deprived , so then it effects his schooling as he falls asleep in class, so gets detentions, and we get calls from his teachers which are rude and arrogant, so a vicious circle everyday for us.
Doctor’s won’t give him sleeping tablets as they are addictive, so have to do the best we can. He has ADHD and Aspergers syndrome.”

As always please share your experiences below in the comment box.

L x


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