Tuesday 2 July 2019

Gear to help our autistic kids sleep

Anthony on his bed

None of our children sleep great. Estimates say between 50% and 90% of autistic people have some sleeping difficulties, whether that's going to sleep, staying asleep or sleeping at the wrong time. We've had it all and tried plenty of gear to help too.

Over the years we've seen a few specialists and received lots of advice for our boys who have ASD and ADHD. Though it didn't all work for us, there's lots that can be tried to help children many children feel calm, safe and ready for sleep.

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.

Some kids sleep best with different gear. Everything from your PJs, bed, bedding, lights, curtains and even decoration can have an impact on how well my kids sleep.  Here's some of the top things we've thought about.


Possibly one of the easiest things to adjust in a room is the lighting.  Our bodies are meant to sleep when it's dark and be awake when it's light.  Naturally, a person's body's level of melatonin is usually highest at night when the pineal gland is most active. It is triggered by darkness so you feel less alert and sleep becomes more inviting.

Simply put, my autistic kids fall to sleep better in a room that is mostly dark.  So, no lamps on in the room, no light on in the hall. In the summer we have dark, thick curtains to keep out the evening light. You can get some great black out blinds or black out curtain liners that we've had too. The year we moved I simply hung a black bedsheet behind the curtains we had and it made a huge difference.  We don't have bright colours on the wall or bright pictures within their eyesight to distract them either.

However, I've got kids that wake up in the night and need to be able to move about safely to come and get me or go to the toilet.  We use nightlights but only ones that are naturally very dim. Often they are so dim you can't see them when we first put them on in the summer evenings. We've found using mains powered ones the best because they don't run out half way through the night. An autistic child will expect the bedroom to look the same when they wake up in the night as when they went to sleep - this includes the light.

Most recently we've used Grolights in the kids bedside lamps and had them dimmed down to the lowest settings.  They are also LED run so I feel less bad about having a light on all night.

Also, if you've got kids who are screen heavy (like I do) then you might like to look at their blue light usage even before bedtime and think about their sleep cycles.

Family sleeping

Bed bits

All kids want to be comfortable when they are sleeping. We have Jane on a firm mattress - she's only just six years old and her body still needs firm support to sleep and grow well.  Our boys though are older and Anthony has been in a full length bed for quite a few years. Like many kids, especially those with autism or ADHD, Anthony moves around a lot in bed. He's constantly wriggling and adjusting his position and can end up getting really hot and drinking lots of water.

We contacted Simba and asked them about their mattresses as I noticed they mentioned a cooling comfort layer in them. Anthony has previously had an open spring mattress to help with airflow but his constant moving would bend all the springs really quickly, he'd end up rolling into the middle and he just got really hot with a foam mattress. His new Simba mattress gives him support across the width of the bed, lets him move about and helps regulate his body temperature. I can't rate it enough.

We've previously also looked at Chillow Pillows to help keep the kids cool when they are active and it's a hot night. These are cool pads that slip inside the pillowcase to help keep the kids cool. I know a couple of people that use these all year round because their kids have weighted blankets (see below) and they get too hot otherwise.

Some kids can also feel overwhelmed by all the things in their room.  In the same we keep things out of sight using furniture like our Armoire or wardrobe can help things and clothes all be 'away'. Aspace hand paint lots of their furniture, including their made to order items, so you can choose a calming colour to help the kids relax. Some kids may feel safer with a canopy.  A bed tent can be good too, especially if you think they might pull a canopy off the ceiling.

Clothes and blankets

Like many kids, my lot are quite sensitive about what's close to their skin. Neither like night clothes with lots of seams, they don't like embroidery, stitching or vinyl type printing. This means long sleeves, full length PJs work best for them. Jane doesn't even like a waistband and so uses long sleeve nighties. Cotton is also the favoured material.  Some kids may prefer pressure clothes and there are a few ranges that do completely seamless clothes too.

For sensory seekers, kids with anxiety or those who need support, a weighted blanket could be really helpful. David has been sleeping with a heavy blanket for a few years and definitely sleeps better with it.  They are easier to get hold of now than a few years ago to, which gives a few more options.

Simba have cooling technology in their duvets so might be worth looking into, if weight isn't an issue and like us your kids get hot.  Their bedding also includes TENCEL which helps regulate temperature too - helpful if like us you all end up in the bed together in the morning sometimes.

These are just ideas and things we have tried.  Please let me know if you have any tips too.

Following us reaching out to Simba, they kindly sent us a mattress to try for purpose of review. And with the other suggestions above, I'm happy to include it in my editorial copy.


  1. These are some good tips that I think can apply to any child. I like the cooling mattress. My youngest can't sleep in nightgowns, she likes two pieces but my eldest can sleep in anything.

  2. I am going to look into chillow pillows thanks for the tips. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time

  3. Does the weighted blanket work? We tried it for a friend, and he despised it. Thank you for this great tips. #KCACOLS xoxo

    1. I guess it works for some and not for others. If he likes deep pressure then he may prefer it but it's not always the case.

  4. I was about to say the chillow pillows sound really cool but to avoid the pun I'll say they sound awesome! #KCACOLS

  5. I really like the sound of the cooling pillows - they would be great for us especially in the sweltering spring months in Mexico. Our house can get so hot sometimes it's unbearable. Thanks for linking up with #kcacols!

  6. Thanks for shared that blog with us. If anyone here searching organic sheets then visit The Organic Mattress Store Inc.


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