How can you help a child with autism get better sleep?

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Autism is a difficult enough condition to manage on its own, but throw in a poor sleep regime and you have an unhappy, tired and stressed child on your hands. There is definitely a link between autism and poor sleep as we will discuss in this article. We suggest some ways for you to help your child improve their sleep cycle, leading to better quality of life for them and a less stressful time for you.

How common are sleep problems in autistic children?

There is an estimated 80% of children with autism who have sleep disorders. These disorders usually come in the form of insomnia, a condition which means people have difficulty sleeping for prolonged periods of time. Sleep problems are almost twice as common in children with autism as children who are neuro typical. Autism specialists have found it can take an extra eleven minutes for autistic children to fall asleep and the sleep they get may not be as good or deep as they spend less time in REM.

Why does this happen?

There are several reasons why children with autism can have sleeping problems compared to children without autism. A child behaviour specialist can tell you more, but here are some of the main reasons. Autism can be linked to other conditions such as ADHD which can cause problems in themselves. People with autism may be on certain types of medications which can prevent sleep. If autism is linked to ADHD, then ADHD medication can act as a stimulant and prevent the child from sleeping. Another reason for the lack of sleep in children with autism is down to genes. Some genes can be linked to melatonin production, which helps with a healthy sleep cycle. If these are affected then sleep will be disturbed. Of course, to find out for definite please consult an autism specialist.

What can you do to help?

There are different ways to treat sleep issues in children with autism. These may be as simple as making sure the child sticks to a sleep schedule, but generally, it’s a more complex issue and needs a professional to help. A good autism or sleep specialist will guide you and your child and tailor a plan that works best for your child’s needs. The plan may involve a sleep clinic, medication, techniques for you to use at home and regular outpatient appointments. Consulting a professional can really make a difference to your child’s life and to your life. If they’re happy, you’re happy.

If you’re looking for further advice on autism in children or need a child sleep specialist, contact Children’s Development Specialist for expert medical advice specialising in autism treatment and autism diagnosis. Our consultant paediatricians and child behaviour specialists have years of experience in recognising signs of autism in toddlers and children and our developmental assessments are tailored to your child’s needs. Please contact us today or call us on 0203 282 0566 for further information on how you could improve your child’s life today.

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