Sleep problems among children with ASD
Sleep is often a major issue for children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Some studies suggest that 40-80% of children with ASD have difficulty falling and/or staying asleep at night. Lack of sleep can in turn exacerbate some of the behavioral characteristics of ASD, such as hyperactivity, aggression, and lack of concentration.
As a result, people with ASD who have a hard time sleeping may struggle to function normally. There are a number of factors associated with these sleep problems, ranging from underlying medical problems to just the nature of autism itself. Unfortunately these sleep problems can cause stress and anxiety for the whole family as well as the child.
The Research Autism advocacy group published a study titled ‘Sleep Problems and Autism’, and noted that the following sleep issues are the most common among children with ASD:
- Difficulty with sleep onset, or falling asleep
- Difficulty with sleep maintenance, or staying asleep throughout the night
- Early morning waking
- Short-duration sleeping
- Sleep fragmentation, characterized by erratic sleep patterns throughout the night
- Hyperarousal, or heightened anxiety around bedtime
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
How can I help my child with ASD sleep better?
Sleep medications should ideally only be used with children as a last resort, but this is the most common method of resolving sleep problems. However, there are a number of lifestyle changes and natural sleep aids that can improve sleep quality and length for children with ASD. Here are a few tips from the site WebMD:
- Avoid giving your child stimulants such as caffeine and sugar before bed.
- Establish a nighttime routine: give your child a bath, read a story, and put him or her to bed at the same time every night.
- Help your child relax before bed by reading a book, giving a gentle back massage, or turning on soft music. – or use a Lulla doll
- Shut down television, video games, and other stimulating activities at least an hour before bedtime.
- To prevent sensory distractions during the night, put heavy curtains on your child's windows to block out the light, install thick carpeting, and make sure the door doesn't creak. You can also make sure that the temperature of the room and choice of bedding fit with your child’s sensory needs.
- Ask your pediatrician about giving your child melatonin just before bedtime. It may help normalize sleep-wake cycles in children with ASD who have sleeping issues, and research done so far finds that it's safe and effective.
- Talk to a sleep psychologist about bright-light therapy. Exposing the child to periods of bright light in the morning may help regulate the body's release of melatonin by helping them to feel more awake during the day.
Touch therapy for children with ASD
Individuals with ASD often have difficulties with touching and being touched by other people. It has been shown that touch therapy or massage can positively impact some indviduals with ASD and possible decrease symptoms. There are people with ASD that feel very uncomfortable with being touched but we all have a innate need for touch to provide us with comfort. Temple Grandin Ph.d designed a hug machine that helped individuals with ASD get comforting touch and build tolerance so to speak to being touched, so to be able to benefit from comforting closeness. Studies have shown that touch from inanimate objects can help these individuals get used to touch.
Stories of the Lulla doll helping children with ASD
We have received stories from parents with children on the Autism Spectrum and how the Lulla doll has helped their little one settle and sleep better. Here are a few of these stories.
"My 3 year old Autistic Son hasn't slept in his own room for over 8 months. Sharing our bed with him has taken its toll but tonight for the first time in what feels like forever he has fallen asleep in his own bed cuddled up with his new Lulla Doll." – Lisa
"My 5 1/2 year old Autistic, ADHD high Anxiety little Oliver. Lula baby as he calls her helped him so much at night. I am forever thankful. He's waking less and less!" – Annie
"I have five children all sitting on the ASD spectrum (Asperger). They rang from nearly fifteen to nearly one year old. I have bought three of your dolls and have never had a problem. Each doll is in bed with one of my children every night. My youngest finds shops hard so we clip the doll in with her so the beating is on her chest. She is then happy to go shopping with us. All our dr's. and ASD helpers all love Lulla now that they have seen the difference. These dolls are amazing." – Tam
"I have an 8 year old boy I bought one for. He is calmer at night now and has a more restfull sleep. It's only been a couple of weeks, but things are looking better for him at school too" - Freyer
"I have an Autistic 7 year old girl and Lulla is my saviour! Go to during meltdowns and allowed me to have my bed back! So very happy with mine.I read about them and I have a good understanding about soothing tones ect so I thought I would give them a go (I have tried hundreds of $$$ worth of products and none have worked) when I told the psychologist (as she suggested I record my voice) she thought they were brilliant.“ – Nicole
„My daughter has high functioning autism and has found great comfort in Lulla. I would think Lulla's benefit would depend largely on whether the child is sensitive to certain sounds or whether they seek comfort from them. My daughter required white noise to sleep in any way from an early age so Lulla was a logical and successful transition for us. She often brings Lulla with her when she is feeling anxious and frequently uses her as a pillow for sleep.“ - Jessica
There is no one size solution for anyone, but we are happy the Lulla doll has helped so many. Sleep and comfort is vital.
LIST OF SOURCES:
- Richdale, Amanda & Schreck, Kimberly. (2009). Sleep Problems in Autism Spectrum Disorders.
- Research Autism Charity. (2014). Sleep Problems and Autism.
- WebMD. (2012). Helping your child with autism get a good night‘s sleep.
- Grandin, Temple. (1992). Calming Effects of Deep Touch Pressure in Patiens with Autistic Disorder.