The first step is to establish a good bedtime routine. Many people with autism and ADHD can find routines helpful. We have established a routine that happens every night that gives the boys notice of their bedtime, helps them calm their senses and creates an environment to help them be ready for sleep. This includes going upstairs, having a bath, then low lighting, a story, hugs and night lights.
If you have established a good routine and there is still some difficulty, the first things to try are easy adaptions to it. Bringing bedtime forward or back, taking away a story if it excites instead of relaxes the children or remove a night light if you think it's stimulating their minds.
Here are some suggestions to help calm and create a sleep environment:
- No blue light in the evenings can help with their bodies natural production of melatonin to bring on the onset of sleep. For us this was hard work given the boys obsessions with TV, iPads and games. So we put these away as part of our routine about an hour before bed
- Adding calming smells to the bath or bedroom. Some people with autism have a heightened sense and enjoyment of smells. A relaxing scent such as lavender can help but should be used carefully. We've used B Organic Skincare baby and kids shampoo and body wash with lavender. It's delicately scented and very gentle, leaving the children's hair and skin soft and ready for bed.
- A weighted blanket or heavy blankets can provide a feeling of calm pressure for sensory seekers. Others are sensory sensitive and need clothes that are seam free or without tags and covers are light and loose. Treat any dry skin before going to bed to avoid scratching in the night. We've used the B Organic Skincare soothing balm which also has lavender and chamomile to calm the skin and senses.
- No lights and black-out curtains to create a dark room. Some people with autism can be very sensitive to light and even a small night light or the sunlight through curtains can be enough to disrupt their sleep. Others need light to help them feel safe and calm. Some autistic people can find true darkness extremely frightening so we use a night light. We use a mains powered one so it can stay on all night - we don’t want to change the environment that the child went to sleep in
- Removing distractions works for others. Our younger son needs bare walls and simple furnishings so he it's not distracted.
If you have any tips, we'd love to hear them.
A version of this post was shared with Scope.
B Organic Skincare sent us some products to try from their children's range. We loved them! They left our kids hair beautifully soft and bodies, clean and clear and we are delighted to include them in our posts. As always any products in our posts are reviewed honestly and independently and we only include them when we think they are great.