Establishing proper routines is paramount to child development, and bedtime is one of the first routines they will learn.
Most children will have sleep struggles from time to time, but research shows children on the autism spectrum are more likely to have sleep disorders. Here are a few theories as to why:
- Children with autism, who often have difficulty communicating, may misinterpret or fail to understand the bedtime routine cues.
- Melatonin irregularities – some studies have shown children with autism have high levels of melatonin during the daytime and lower levels at night.
- Increased sensitivity to outside stimuli – While most kids can sleep soundly through nighttime sounds, a child with ASD may wake abruptly.
- Anxiety – children with autism tend to have higher levels of anxiety
Lack of proper sleep at night is a serious household health and safety issue, and its negative impacts on the other family members can be detrimental. A pediatrician or pediatric pulmonologist may prescribe medication or a sleep study to see what might be at the root of the problem, but there are no easy fixes for solving sleep.
A relatively inexpensive sleep training method is to use a Bluetooth-enabled nightlight to create color-sound programs that lets your child know when it’s time to sleep and wake.
What we at Special-Learning like about this tool is that it creates a neutral messenger of time with simplified cues. A light now tells us when sleep starts and ends, so it diminishes the control/power struggle. There are many great products on the market, but our favorite is the Hatch Baby Rest light.
Color and Sound Programming
Start with just two programs – Sleep and Wake. Use one combination of color and sound for each program consistently.
- Sleep Colors: Orange, Red
- Sleep Sounds: Ocean, Trees, Waves, White Noise, etc.
- Awake Colors: Green, Yellow, Blue
- Awake Sounds: Birds, Sounds Off, etc.
Avoid Blue Light, Especially At Night
Even dim light can interfere with a person’s circadian rhythm and melatonin secretion. A mere eight lux—a level of brightness exceeded by most table lamps and about twice that of a night light—has an effect, notes Stephen Lockley, a Harvard sleep researcher. https://www.health.harvard.edu
Take Aim At the Appropriate Amount Of Sleep By Age
Every child needs a slightly different amount of sleep. In general, these are the amounts of sleep children require, by age:
- Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day
- Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours
- Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours
- Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours
- School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours
- Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours
- Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours
- Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
- Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours