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Relaxing Bedtime Routine for a Child With Autism

Relaxing Bedtime Routine for a Child With Autism

Relaxing Bedtime Routine for a Child with Autism

If your child with autism is frequently bleary-eyed and frustrated by a lack of sleep, they aren’t alone; for many, a good night’s rest becomes a luxury.

A great way to help your child fall and stay asleep is developing a relaxing and consistent bedtime routine for them to follow. For children with autism, a good routine is typically one that encourages the mind to calm down, the body to slow, and eliminates nighttime stressors as much as possible.

The specifics of your child’s routine are likely to look different from those of others, but that’s okay - in fact, it’s a good thing. The most successful routines are those that take into account your child’s unique challenges and strengths, so it’s wise to take your time when planning and executing yours.

How Does Autism Affect Sleep?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) impacts sleep patterns in more ways than one: an individual with autism may struggle to fall asleep, stay asleep, or sleep at seemingly inappropriate or strange times. 

A lack of sleep can certainly worsen the challenges that a person with autism typically manages, like anxiety, sensory issues, or learning difficulties. 

Likewise, an abnormal or frequently fluctuating sleep schedule can make it difficult to uphold responsibilities, maintain a stable mood, and maintain good physical health.

Not all children with autism experience sleep problems, but many -- even the majority -- do. As a result, many families strive to find ways to help their children find relief.

Autism and Sleeping Too Much

Some children with autism may find it hard to stay awake and energized throughout the day. They may sleep in frequently, nap often, or feel chronically drowsy; the result of these feelings is often more sleep, which can worsen the problem.

There are lots of reasons a child with autism might sleep too much. For one thing, people with autism are more sensitive to sensory stimuli, whether it be sound, light, or movement. That means that it’s much easier for these individuals to struggle to tune things out, fall asleep, or stay asleep.

Interrupted sleep cycles, insomnia, and other related phenomena can leave your child feeling as though they haven’t slept a wink no matter how long they rest.

Autism and Sleep in Toddlers and Babies

Young children (around three years of age or younger) generally don’t possess the skills to properly communicate how they feel, so it can be quite tricky for them to accurately and appropriately express sleepiness, irritation, etc

Still, young children need consistent amounts of sleep to grow, develop, and stay healthy. That’s why it’s so important to monitor your child’s sleeping habits and keep an eye out for any changes.

How Can I Help My Autistic Toddler Sleep?

If your toddler (or baby) struggles to sleep throughout the night, one of the best ways to help out is to establish the root of the problem, if possible.

For instance, a noisy room or one that’s frequently flooded with car lights may be a large part of the reason a child can’t fall or stay asleep. Or, as another example, heightened levels of anxiety that may come from being left alone might keep your child’s mind reeling for hours.

If you’re able to pinpoint at least part of what may be irritating your child, you can begin to take steps to alleviate the concern. Consider heavy curtains to block out light, a noise machine to create a stable environment, a stuffed animal friend, or whatever else feels appropriate.

Bedtime Routine for a Child with Autism: Ideas and Tips

One of the easiest and most successful ways to help your child get a good night’s sleep regardless of their age or challenges is implementing a consistent, thoughtful nighttime routine.

Routines take a lot of the stress out of night time, but they also signal to your child’s brain that it’s time to slow down and relax. This can be particularly helpful for children with autism because they tend to struggle interpreting the social and other external cues that are generally utilized by the brain to help maintain an “internal clock.”

Below are some tips to keep in mind as you work to develop a bedtime routine that works for your child:

  • Stay away from technology and screens. It’s no secret that screens fundamentally interfere with the ways our brains distinguish between day and night (and when it’s time to be awake versus asleep). Avoid screen time as much as possible in the evening hours; if that’s unrealistic for your household, try to ensure screen time ends at least an hour or two before bedtime.
  • Avoid stimulating activities or foods. Certain foods, particularly those with sugar or caffeine, should be avoided as the day comes to a close, as should activities that tend to get your child excited. The goal is to teach the mind to slowly wind down consistently, and these factors can make it feel impossible to do so.
  • Take some time to unwind. Prioritize relaxation throughout your child’s routine. You might give them a nightly bath, read them a story, tuck them in, or perform other similar tasks that help take their mind off the day and refocus it to sleep. Following the same, predictable steps can be comforting and help your child know what to expect every night.
  • Incorporate elements of self-care. Teaching your child to include self-care in their bedtime routine can help set them up for success and independence in the future. Tooth brushing, baths, hair brushing, etc. are all options to consider.
  • Consider implementing supplements into your child’s routine (after speaking with a doctor). For some children, a routine and the desire to get more sleep just aren’t enough. In these cases, supplements like melatonin or prescription medications may be appropriate, but it’s crucial that you raise these questions to your child’s doctor before making any decisions.
  • Do Autistic Children Sleep Alone?

    Once you’ve developed a nighttime routine for your child, it’s time to stick to it. But what can you do if your child tends to struggle to sleep alone? Even if you get them into bed successfully, they may still have a hard time feeling comfortable and, in some cases, resort to potentially harmful behaviors as a result.

    Children with autism can and do sleep alone, but it’s not always easy. For many families, deliberate effort is necessary to help children learn to manage night time stress and remain independent.

    How to Get Autistic Child to Sleep in Own Bed

    Some sleep obstacles call for outside support from professionals experienced with sleep behavior and routine challenges. Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) treatment can be a very successful option for those with ASD, especially when it comes to addressing specific behavioral patterns like leaving the bed at night.

    Working alongside an experienced ABA therapist is a great strategy to try out if you’ve exhausted all of your own ideas, or if you’d just like to get the perspective of someone familiar with how autism impacts sleep.

    Alongside a steady routine, lots of patience, and time, ABA therapy can help your child learn to feel confident and secure in their room all night long. Even if full independence isn’t an option for your child, ABA can help your family learn better coping mechanisms and strategies for any obstacles you might run into.

    Cubby Bed: The Solution Your Child Deserves

    No one wants to sleep in an environment that feels restricting, scary, or just plain uncomfortable. For children with autism, there are few tools that can work to address these concerns quite as well as the Cubby Bed.

    Designed with special needs children and families in mind, the Cubby Bed features both safety and comfort features to help ease the minds of both child and parent alike. 

    The bed features 360 degrees of padding and a mesh canopy to keep your little one safe and sound. Unique sensory features like meditative breathing programs, white noise, and more can help lull your child to sleep while also blocking out irritating stimuli.

    Monitoring features -- including Android and iOS apps, high-quality cameras, and microphones -- are also a key part of the Cubby Bed. 

    These features make it simple for parents to keep an eye on their children from just about anywhere. Worries about your child injuring themselves during a nighttime seizure, elopement, or simple hyperactivity can become a thing of the past.

    While it may not cure your child’s sleep problems on its own, the Cubby Bed is a wonderful addition to any bedtime routine. With multiple financing options available, it’s possible for families of all sorts to invest in all the bed has to offer.

    Let the Cubby Bed take some of the weight off of your shoulders. Your child and family both deserve to feel in control, safe, and confident in your ability to manage these sorts of challenges. With the Cubby Sleep System, this goal is easier to achieve than ever.

    If you have additional questions, send them our way!

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