Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) face a broad range of challenges, from difficulty interacting with their peers and making friends to problems with compliance and adhering to a regular sleeping pattern. When any child has difficulty sleeping, the entire family can easily become sleep deprived. If your child is experiencing sleep disturbances, consider talking to his or her autism specialist about ways of addressing the issue.
Identifying Sleep-Related Challenge
Occasional sleep disturbances are normal for kids. However, children with autism tend to experience higher rates of significant sleep disturbances. Sleep difficulties can contribute to a child’s behavioral challenges during the day. When a child with autism wakes up his or her parents and siblings repeatedly, the entire family can experience impaired functioning.
Understanding the Potential Causes
Although the research is far from conclusive, some studies suggest that children with autism are more likely to have abnormal melatonin levels and abnormal circadian rhythms. Autism specialists have also identified some environmental factors and behavioral issues that can contribute to sleep disturbances . For example, many children enjoy stimulating play activities in their bedrooms. This may make it difficult for a child to calm down and go to sleep in the same room. Children with autism may also experience difficulty with the social cues and routines that indicate an approaching bedtime.
Improving Bedtime Behavior
Parents can work with an autism specialist to resolve sleep-related challenges. They might keep a journal to track sleep disturbances and identify possible contributing factors. Steps to resolve these disturbances might include posting a visual schedule to remind children of the components of their bedtime routines.
At The Behavior Exchange , we’ve made it our life’s mission to help children with autism reach their full potential. When you enroll your child in our behavior classes, he or she will benefit from our evidence-based practices. Call our center near Dallas at (972) 312-8733 with any questions you may have.