As a parent, you know how important it is that your child gets enough sleep to avoid a serious case of the grumps throughout the day. However, if your child has autism, sleep is a battle all its own. The following are just a few tips to help you create a more relaxing bedroom for your child, no matter where he or she falls on the spectrum. These tips are also applicable to any child that struggles with getting the sleep they need.
Understand the Connection
Around 30 percent of all kids experience a sleep disorder at some point. According to statistics cited by Verywell Health, as many as 50 percent of children with autism have problems falling and/or staying asleep. As a result of this lack of sleep, many children exhibit short- or long-term behavioral issues. The reason behind these sleep issues is due to the high prevalence of sensory issues in children with autism, meaning that a seemingly small noise or small crack of light under the bedroom door is enough to keep them wide awake and uncomfortable. Physical and mental illnesses often common in children with autism such as ADHD, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder could be an issue as well.
Block Out Nighttime Sounds
The night is full of sounds, whether it is cars rumbling by outside, the dog shifting in his sleep, or even the whir of the HVAC system. While these might seem minor, for a chn acutely sensitive child, this can make falling asleep nearly impossible. If your child already has a pair of headphones or earplugs to block out noise during the day, consider using them at night as well. Some children aren’t a fan of anything on or in their ears, so a white noise machine might do the trick. Another great option is to soundproof the door. This can be accomplished using weather-stripping or sealant, but an easier approach is to hang a soundproof blanket on the outside of the door using hooks or even put a rug on both sides of the doorway to absorb the sound.
A nighttime sound you might not think about is coughing, wheezing, and mouth breathing due to respiratory issues. As many as 7 million children in the US have asthma, which can make breathing difficult and sleep hard to come by. Help your child sleep peacefully and quietly by minimizing dust, pet dander, and pollen with a fresh air filter and regular cleaning.
Make It Visually Relaxing
Children’s rooms are notorious for being filled with fun, bright colors, but this can lead to sensory overload. Your child’s room color should provoke a sense of calm, which can be accomplished through cool colors such as blue and green. Depending on the preferences of your child, a soothing color-changing lava lamp or light projector can help your child relax at night before bedtime, and serve as a nightlight if your child so desires. Speaking of light, did you know the lighting in your home could impact your child’s natural sleep-wake cycle? It is best to avoid fluorescent lighting and turn all screens off at least two hours before bedtime to prevent stimulation and a resulting restless night.
Incorporate Sleep Tools
There are plenty of sleep tools that can help your child sleep at night, one of which is a weighted blanket. The blanket provides pressure and sensory input to help your child enter into a relaxed state for sleep. If your child isn’t a fan of the bed, perhaps a tent or suspended swing can be helpful. Something as simple as hanging a curtain to give your child a quiet, dark space can work wonders. Every child is unique and different, so some tools will work better for some than others. Check out this list of tips provided by parents of children with special needs.
Children need sleep, and you can help them get it. Sleep issues are common in children with autism, which is why you need to take steps to create a soothing environment. By making the room a sensory haven and incorporating sleep tools, you are headed in the right direction.