Autism and Sleep

Autism and Sleep solutions:

What are ADHD and Autism?

More children are being diagnosed with special needs such as “neurobiological disorders” including ADHD, Autism and Asperger’s syndrome.  Children with special needs can often have sleep issues.   Autism and sleep, or lack of in these children, will exacerbate other issues related to their condition.  So without the necessary sleep – their behavioural problems can be aggravated during the day both at home and at school. In turn, this leads to less cognitive functioning and focus during these critical years of learning.

Children with special needs can often experience high levels of stress. They often have to keep their behaviour under control at school. Medication may be of use to help them, and of course, there may be side effects related to those medications that may contribute to sleep problems for children with ADHD and autism.

All children benefit from good sleeping habits.  Some children with special needs need extra help falling asleep and staying asleep. There are lots of things you can do to help your child. The first is routine. This is important for any child, so set yourself up a routine to help unwind your child before going to sleep. Stick with the same time to go to sleep as much as possible. Ideas such as lava lamps can also help relax a child before bed. Reading before your child goes to sleep can help them associate this with sleep time, this is also a great way to have special time with your child.

Autism and Sleep – Some reasons for sleep issues:

Physical Issues:

  • Allergies

Make sure you have ruled out all allergies, as this may be contributing to sleep issues, especially in the very young child.  You can also ensure, your child is sleeping on hypoallergenic bedding, such as the Ultimate Sleep range of toddler and kids pillows, designed with young children in mind.

  • Temperature regulation

Temperature is important for anyone trying to fall asleep. Check that the room is not too hot or too cold, as this could lead to frequent waking.  Cold feet may be a problem, so try wearing a pair of socks to bed and see if that helps.  You can also try bedding that has properties for superior temperature regulation, the Ultimate Sleep range of pillows has had significant testing regarding temperature regulation.

  • Noise

Noise that you may not notice may be heightened in your child. Due to possible sensitivity, noises may make it difficult for your child to fall asleep. You may not notice that a TV on in, may be causing your child to stay awake. So keep your child’s sleeping environment as quiet as possible.

  • Emotional Issues & Body regulation

Stress can disturb anyone’s sleep, but it is a lot harder to detect it in children that find it difficult to express their needs.  Many children have separation anxiety issues, where they prefer to feel that they are next to someone in their bed.  Some children also like the feeling of deep pressure, to assist in their body self-regulation.  Using the Ultimate Sleep U – Small , specifically designed for these purposes, can provide both an aid for your child to hold onto, as well as feeling pressure in either direction of their sleep. It also serves as a nice boundary for the child so that they don’t fall out of bed.  Please read the reviews on how the Ultimate Sleep U has assisted many ADHD / Autism families improve their child’s sleep to start their days feeling refreshed.

  • Anxiety

Anxiety from all sources including school and family issues can cause major problems for children falling and staying asleep. Try to reduce how much stress your child is exposed as much as possible, if they are happy then sleep should be much better. Also think about limiting exposure to frightening material for example, movies or violent books. As mentioned previously, you can provide help to your child regarding any separation anxiety issues, and finally get your child to sleep thru the night and in their own bed.

  • Stimulation

Too much stimulation before bed can be disturbing for your child falling asleep i.e. television, video games and physical rough and tumble (Dad’s play). If you do these activities, think about an early time to do this rather than an hour before bed, which may cause your child to find it difficult to unwind.

  • Exercise and Body regulation:

Make sure your child gets enough exercise during the day. Exercise helps to release much needed endorphins which will help child to fall asleep. Make sure not to exercise too late in the day, where this may wind the child up.

  • Limit caffeine and sugar consumption. (Soft drinks are a huge culprit.)


  • Food consumption:

Avoid eating late dinners as much as possible, as this can raise the metabolic rate in your child. If this is unavoidable then limit snacks. If you must have an evening snack, try one that contains tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that the brain converts into melatonin, which assists in sleep. It’s good to combine these foods with complex carbohydrates like whole-grain cereals, bread or potatoes; which also helps the brain to absorb the tryptophan.  You may also like to review our information on Nutrition for good sleeping here for the whole family.

  • Transitioning to sleep:

And finally warn your child that it will be time for bed 10 minutes prior to starting the process. This will ensure that the child will be able to transition smoothly to the next stage of falling asleep.