I love to sleep. I even managed to have Glandular Fever when I was 17 which gave me a legitimate excuse to sleep more.
When you decide to have a baby, you are usually fully aware that sleep is going to become something of a luxury…at least for the first couple of years. I remember moaning about how tired I was when I was in the later stages of pregnancy. I had no idea what tired meant. None.
Quite often people will see Owen doing his usual thing of never stopping moving and will tell me, ‘He’ll sleep well tonight!’. If only! And I can say goodbye to any ‘free time’ I thought I would get in the evening if he sleeps for more than two minutes during the day.
Children with Autism often struggle with sleep (just my luck!). Owen needs me with him to settle down for bed. He goes to sleep in my bed (I know, I know, but it’s the only opportunity I get for a cuddle) and I then transfer him to his bed when I come back upstairs later.
Touch wood, once he’s asleep, he will stay asleep until 5ish. Pretty good going but this is the eye of the current storm – he was waking at 4am up until recently. He will also ‘pull an all nighter’ from time to time and will wake from anywhere between 11pm and 2am and just stay awake. Those nights really test my patience but the second he’s nodded back off, he looks like Mummy’s little angel again…
Why do children with Autism struggle with sleep? Autism often comes hand in hand with other issues that are known to cause problems with sleep…ADHD, Anxiety etc.
The social interaction and speech disorder also play a part. Can I convince him that 1am is not time to get dressed for school? Like hell I can. He doesn’t understand that it’s the middle of the night, Mummy is exhausted and it is time for sleeping. Can I explain it to him? Of course not. I’ve learnt that the best way to deal with it is to just get up and stick a film on (thank you Amazon Prime).
Autism is also linked to problems with the hormone ‘Melatonin’ which helps to regulate sleep. I haven’t gone down this route but it’s something to consider later on.
Owen has a good bedtime routine which involves a nice bath and music as he’s nodding off. Sometimes this is key for children with Autism.
Another issue is the hypo-sensitivity. Weighted blankets are supposed to be brilliant for children who are ‘under’ sensitive. You need a lottery win to buy them so I’ve found that pillows on his feet work well.
Our Portage (play therapy) worker, Georgina gave me some research to look at about how a lot of children with Autism settle down to sleep better if they can have some physical play time immediately before bed. Interestingly, Owen has recently discovered jumping on the bed (deep joy) and I’m in the process of trying this new method of settling down.
Autism.org.uk suggest finding ‘creative’ ways to manage sleep issues. I’ve found that headphones and Amazon Prime on the television and tablet ensure that I at least don’t need to spend these waking nights watching Disney’s entire back catalogue. Plus caffeine; lots and lots of it.
I told you I wasn’t creative.