According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) has hit record highs and now impacts 1 in every 88 children and almost 1 in every 54 boys. ASDs can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges impacting all aspects of life — and, since we’re committed to helping families sleep better, in honor of National Autism Awareness Month, today we’re sharing bedtime tips & tools for kids with autism. We hope it helps!
First, some tips from Cloud b Sleep Advisory Board Member, Kim West (aka The Sleep Lady):
The average preschooler (children between 2 ½ and 5 years of age) needs approximately 10 hours of nighttime sleep along with a 90-minute afternoon nap, but research suggests that children diagnosed with ASD may need less sleep than average.
Ensure that your child’s bedroom encourages sleep.
You want your child’s bedroom to be soothing, so make sure that the room is dark in the evenings and kept at a comfortable temperature. If there is outside light (such as a street lamp), you may want to consider purchasing room-darkening shades. If you are the parent of a child with ASD, you may already be familiar with the fact that children with ASD are more aware of nighttime noise. To help with this, a white noise machine will help mitigate outside noise and may help to curb night awakenings.
A note from The Sleep Lady: Some children with ASD may not be comforted by white noise, but if outside noises are bothersome and causing multiple awakenings, a white noise machine may be worth trying with your child. Just be sure to monitor the results. It is important to remember that some children with ASD are not only noise-sensitive, but they may also be texturally sensitive. I would encourage you to check bedding, pillows, and even pajamas to make sure that they aren’t irritating to your child’s skin and causing restless sleep (and more awakenings).
Follow a daily schedule or routine.
Many families find that a picture chart helps their ASD child prepare for the next task. If you don’t have one, they are easy to create, and can help with not only bedtime, but also with mealtimes and transitions. Pictures also allow a non-verbal child to see what’s coming next, based on the current activity, giving them extra time to process the change. Keep your picture charts in a central location so that your child can refer to them often. Make sure that meals, naps, and bedtimes occur as close to the same time each day as possible.
Television is stimulating (so are computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones!). Try to turn screens off at least two hours before bedtime and switch to quiet activities that will encourage your child to prepare for sleep, such as books, puzzles, or drawing.
Stick to your established bedtime routine.
Your bedtime routine doesn’t have to be long, just fifteen to thirty minutes is enough. Even if you get home late, don’t skip the routine. If you have to do it faster, that’s okay, but routine is so important. I cannot stress that enough. Stick with your routine. It is a source of comfort and daily reassurance for your child.
Play outside during the day.
Fresh air is good for you, and will help everyone sleep better. Try to time your outing early in the day (so as not to over-stimulate your child and make bedtime harder).
Remember that falling to sleep on your own is a skill that has to be taught.
I would encourage you to use The Sleep Lady Shuffle to help your child with this skill. Everyone wakes during the night, and your child needs to learn how to go back to sleep by themselves. With children diagnosed with ASD, it is to be expected that night awakenings will happen where the parent has to assist, but you will find that once your child can go to sleep on their own, this will occur less and less. You may find that you need to modify The Shuffle for your child based on their needs, and that’s okay. If you have to move your chair every week, rather than every three days, don’t worry. The point is to help your child sleep, and if it takes a little bit, that’s perfectly okay.
Keep a sleep journal for your child.
It’s important to note that what works for one child may not work for another, so keep a sleep journal to help you remember what has worked and what has not. Maybe an 8:00 p.m. bedtime will allow your child to sleep until 6:30 a.m., but going to bed at 7:00 p.m. results in a 4:00 a.m. wake-up. Or maybe you need to change the bedtime routine to help your child get to sleep. Keeping a journal will help you to analyze your routine and wake-up times to make minor (or major) adjustments to make sure that everyone is getting restorative sleep.
Now, for some tools to help make bedtime better. Happily, we’ve heard from countless parents that Cloud b sleep aids work wonders with kids with autism. Here are some of the award-winning products recommended by National Autism Resources:
Sleep Sheep Smart Sensor which features four soothing sounds to help a child relax and calm down to get ready to sleep: heartbeat, waves, raindrops and whale songs. Let the sleep sheep create a calm environment and prepare your child for a good night of sleep. The smart sound sensor automatically turns sound back on if your baby makes any noise.
Glow Cuddles Bear is a special bear with “heart” that combines both sight and touch to help kids sleep. With just a hug, this touch activated bear offers a soothing glow and calming vibrating heartbeat.
Twilight Turtle is our award-winning night light that’s great for helping calm and relax kids by projecting constellations on the ceiling of your kid’s bedroom. The starry night that is created by Twilight Turtle contains 8 unique constellations making it an educational toy as well.
The Cloud B Plush aroma pillows have an all-natural lavender scent to help kids fall sleep. These soft, plush, friendly ladybugs look cute and are shaped like a warm snugly pillow.
Tranquil Turtle with stunning visual effects. This amazing turtle projects an absolutely mesmerizing underwater light effect onto any ceiling. Set the lighting effect to move or stay still. Want a darker room? No problem easily adjust the brightness with a slide control. While watching the water effect you have the choice of listening to a tranquil melody or the sound of ocean waves.
Check out all of our plush with a purpose to find the perfect pal for your child’s bedtime routine.
What are your bedtime tips & tools for kids with autism? Please share them in the comments so other parents can learn from your experience!