This is something I’ve seen discussed quite a bit lately, it’s a fairly common problem but in various degrees. Some people can not get their child to fall asleep, others do fall asleep but wake up constantly and then others sleep alright but wake up really early. Like all things Autism, the problems are never the same.
I can’t give you an answer that will definitely work for you because there simply isn’t one… all the problems are different, all the solutions are too. On top of that, as I always say, I’m no expert. I can only tell you what has been working for me and suggest you give it a try… but don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t work for you.
Cameron has had a few nightmare nights here and there where he wakes up screaming… even night terrors. He’s also had a lot of nights where he just wakes up and calls for me, or comes to me, or just wanders out into the living room and sits there until he falls asleep on the couch. For a long time, he’d wake up at 5am no matter how tired he was or what time he went to bed.
We’ve pretty much run the gambit of various issues.
The more and more I wrote about how the senses of an Autistic works, the more I started to think about what his senses might be doing while asleep. You see, I believe that sleep does not stop the flood of sights, sounds, smells and even feelings from invading the person’s mind.
Are you watching a movie in the living room while they sleep? Are there cars going by outside? Does light come in from the window? Is there a clock ticking somewhere in the house? A faucet dripping? A pet awake somewhere, maybe eating? Are the sheets irritating the child? Is the bed hard enough? Soft enough?
I think that all of this is easily overlooked because a child that’s sleeping should not notice any of it… but for Autistics, maybe they do!
Going by that reasoning, my wife and I put black blankets up over the windows in his room, no light gets in at all… and then we put in either a white noise system, or the air conditioner (which sounds a lot the same).
So from bed time till morning, there’s no light and the sounds around are drowned out. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be loud white noise, just something else to focus on. The white noise is in the room with them, the other sounds are not.
We have not moved on to the sheets yet, mostly due to lack of $$…. but already we’ve seen a huge difference. Cameron now goes to bed on his own, he insists on a bed time story… and then he sleeps soundly until 7, sometimes 8am. The sunrise does not affect him, the sounds of cars and trucks going by does not affect him. He is free to sleep, oblivious to the world around him.
Strangely enough, getting the extra sleep was actually a bad thing, as he seemed to regress for a bit… but after a week or so, we saw a total reversal and found that the extra sleep was a huge benefit and well worth the effort.
I’m not saying that what will work for you will be so easy, but then again, maybe it is. Go into your child’s room and sit on the bed. Really stop and get a feel for the room. Listen for everything. Look at where light may be coming in or even moving. Is there an alarm clock? Imagine your child in there while fully awake and all the extra things they would pick up due to their sensory processing issues.
It’s worked for us so far!