This post is for Danette’s wonderful Best of Best Series. Click on the badge below on July fifteenth to see other posts on this subject. FYI: My daughter approved this post.
The myth is that if your child cannot fall asleep it is due to either anxious parenting or lack of firm parenting. The legend is that those on the autism spectrum can totally avoid sleep problems if they avoid sensory overload and they are in a calm environment. The mystery is why those on the autism spectrum have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.
Too many parents of children on the spectrum experience judgement for their child’s sleep problems and are given poor advice as a result. I am one of them. I can tell you now that if you talk to my fifteen year old that she will collaborate that the environment was quiet prior to her bedtime, and I was calm as we read her bedtime stories, told her stuffed animals good night and said her prayers during her toddler years. Her bedtime was the same every night too. Still she rarely slept more than six hours and she frequently had trouble going to sleep and went through periods of waking up several times a night. She completely gave up her daytime naps unless she was ill by the time she was three.
Parents are also told that if they remove bright colors and all electronics from the bedroom and keep the house quiet their child will be able to sleep just fine. Some recommend adding deep massage and/ or aroma therapy. My teenager will tell you this does not work for her. There are many times that she has no idea what keeps her awake. Her mind just has trouble shutting down when it is bedtime. She does eventually fall asleep. She does get enough sleep to function either by taking naps or by sleeping longer some days.
No one knows for sure what causes those on the autism spectrum to have problems with sleep yet it remains an issue into adulthood for many. Baylor College of Medicine believes it possibly is due to alterations in the production of melatonin. You can read about their study by clicking on this link: Treatment of Sleep Problems in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder With Melatonin – Full Text View – ClinicalTrials.gov.
I believe we need to quit believing there is a one size fits all range of needed sleep or even for the time of day people sleep. Maybe some children and some adults do not need as much sleep as others. Maybe some people are born night owls and need to sleep later in the day. Mayo clinic seems to think this is true for teenagers anyway. Click on this link to read more: Teen sleep: Why is your teen so tired? – MayoClinic.com.
Let me know what you think!