Sleep disturbances are not very common in children, but they are apparent in children suffering from autism. This article throws some light on the link between sleep disturbances and autism, take a look.
Autism is a rare disorder which is characterized by impaired social interaction and communication along with restricted and repetitive behavior. A parent can observe the signs of autism before the child turns three years old. The exact cause of autism is still unknown to medical experts, but there is a strong connection between autism and heredity. Autism is essentially a developmental disorder that affects brain’s normal development and alters the information processing done by the brain. And how does all this happen is also unknown till today.
When a child is born he sleeps a lot but slowly he adjusts with the usual cycle of sleep and wakefulness. But it is found that most autistic children suffer from various sleep disorders. Some children may find it difficult to fall asleep, some may have poor quality sleep, or may wake up several times during sleep, and some may develop inconsistent sleep routine or wake up early. Now this is not a problem only for children, it is a cause of concern for their care takers, or parents of the autistic children as well.
Sound sleep is something parents of autistic children may not have experienced as they constantly have to look after the kid when he or she is not sleeping. This poses a threat to the health of not only the autistic child, but also the parents as well. Hence it is essential for parents to derive some ways to get sound sleep.
Effect of Sleep Disturbances on Autistic Children and Their Parents
Since the cause of autism is still debatable, the cause of sleep disturbances in autistic children is also unknown. A lot of studies and researches are being conducted but still nothing can claimed regarding the causes of sleep disturbances and autism. But, health experts have found out that sleep disturbances can certainly have an adverse effects on autistic children and their parents.
The adverse effect of sleep problems is manifested in different ways for different children. It is observed that, children with autism experiencing sleep disturbances are more prone to become aggressive or depressive. Some may withdraw even further, and some may become violent or self destructive. Some children tend to have increased levels of hyperactivity and irritability which adds to their existing behavioral problems. In few cases, the sleep disturbances directly affect the cognitive performance of the child, which results in poor learning and inadequate grasping of new things. All these factors create a hindrance in the overall development of the child, who is already challenged with autism.
When the child is active in the night, a parent obviously cannot have a sound sleep. Some studies have shown that parents of autistic children sleep less, as compared to parents of ‘normal’ kids. Many parents of autistic children have reported that their child is awake till 3 am or 4 am, and hence parents cannot sleep. The problem is worse if someone has other non autistic kids, who get up in the morning at usual times.
In such a situation, they hardly sleep for three to four hours, which certainly takes a toll on their physical and mental health. Chronic sleep deprivation in adults can leads to digestive problems, nausea and acidity. Apart from this, lack of sleep also causes, irritation, feeling sleepy during the day, depression, and overall loss of well-being. But there are ways that can help the parents of autistic children to induce sound sleep to their children as well as themselves.
Tips For Parents of Autistic Children
- Try to establish a fixed bed time routine for your children. Your child may not learn it from the social cues, and it may be difficult initially, but with practice you may achieve this.
- Make sure that you do not feed caffeine, sugar, or any other stimulants to kids at least three hours before they go to bed.
- Create a good sleepy atmosphere in the room by having thick curtains and making the room soundproof by closing the windows. Also pay attention to the temperature of the room and keep it child friendly.
- A daily supplement of melatonin can also help induce sleep. Melatonin is a medicinal aid which is found to be safe and effective in helping children follow usual sleeping routine. But it is advisable to consult your doctors before.
- You may have to take efforts in stopping your child from sleeping at odd times, initially, when he or she is learning to adapt with a sleep routine.
- Lastly, make your house ‘child proof’ and safe so even if your kids do not sleep at night, their chances of meeting with accidents are reduced.
These were some of the tips that can be tried by parents of autistic children to make sure that they themselves and their child gets a good night sleep! Well, caring for autistic children is easy said than done, but if you take guidance from health experts and join a support group, I am sure that your worries and concerns will be lessened considerably.