Although sleep issues can be common with many kids, children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can often have an especially hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. Chronic sleep problems not only negatively impact the learning ability of children and make challenging behaviors more likely to occur, but they can also increase stress in the home by making it more difficult for parents and siblings to rest at night.
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However, there are many effective strategies that parents can use to help their child have a more successful night.
- Establishing a regular bedtime routine: If possible, bedtimes should occur around the same time each night and include 15-30 minutes of “wind-down” time that avoids stimulating activities (e.g., screen time, rough housing).
- Maintaining a comfortable sleep environment: Sleeping spaces should be cool, quiet, and dark, especially for children who can have be more sensitive to noises, lights, and textures.
- Limiting reactions to late-night/early waking: Slowly increasing the amount of time before reacting to challenging night behaviors, as well as limiting interactions to less than 30 seconds, can be an effective method of teaching a child to self-soothe and stay calm at night.
- Using visual supports: Many children benefit from having something they can see that tells them when it is time to stay in bed and when it is time to get out of bed, such as a color-changing alarm clock or a visual schedule.
For most parents, consistent behavior strategies, such as those listed above, are often successful at helping their children to have more restful nights.
The following websites provide additional information on sleep strategies for children with ASD:
Should you have any further questions, please contact Dr. Karen Hans, Board Certified Behavior Analyst, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Karen Hans, BCBA
Board Certified Behavior Analyst
Additional writing support by Brandon Dickens, RBT