Sleep is critical for everyone. However, falling asleep and staying asleep can be particularly challenging for individuals with autism.
Fortunately, there are some strategies that can help.
To help you set your child up for sleep success, our team recommends these five steps.
Prepare Their Room
Since children with autism are more likely to have sensory issues, it’s extra important that their bedroom be comfortable and free from stimulation at bedtime. Work with your child to learn their preferences.
Set a Routine
Many children with autism thrive once they learn an established routine. Your child might benefit from a visual aid, like a bedtime routine checklist that they can tick off as they complete each step each night.
That routine might look something like this:
- Turning off all electronic devices
- Brushing their teeth
- Putting on pajamas
- Using the bathroom
- Doing a calming activity, like some coloring, you reading them a story, or listening to some soothing music together
- Getting into bed
- Turning off their light
When your child does their bedtime routine in a reasonable amount of time, make sure you praise them to reinforce it.
Stick With It
If your child with autism wakes up in the night and you have a hard time getting them to fall back asleep, pick their nighttime routine back up. They don’t need to brush their teeth again, per se, but it might be helpful to revisit their calming activity, use the restroom, and go through the routine of getting into bed and turning their bedroom light off again.
Establishing these cues helps them associate their bedtime routine with sleep. It also gives you a way to show them that night is time for sleeping, not for any other activities.
Separate Yourself from Their Sleep
Kids may have an easier time falling asleep with their parents next to them. But you don’t necessarily want to be there for them to sleep indefinitely.
Ease yourself out of the equation. You can start by sitting on the edge of the bed. After a week or two, bring a chair into the room and sit in that. Gradually move the chair further from their bed to help them get used to falling asleep without you.
Monitor Daytime Activities
Napping late in the day or drinking caffeine after lunch can make bedtime harder. Conversely, regular exercise can help your child fall asleep faster — and stay asleep.
In short, what they do during the day can make a difference in their sleep. To help create a daytime plan that feeds into a good night’s rest, don’t hesitate to talk to our team at Stride Autism Centers.