Monday 11 January 2021

Helping our autistic kids get the best sleep

Child sleeping

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 - and that's just when things are normal. A King's College London study in the summer found that nearly two-thirds (63%) of people's sleep was worse during lockdown.  

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 feel calm, safe and ready for sleep during this stressful period.

1. Keep the bedtime routine

It's so easy when there's no school to go to, or commute, for routines to get lost. Bedtime can end up moving, and you can end up wondering if washing hair is necessary when there's no one to see it. But keeping these routines will help with sleep. Our bodies get used to what's supposed to happen and it gives our bodies clues that sleep is due soon. This routine can also be a good way to spend time together - I spend more time chatting with my kids at bedtime than most of the rest of the day as we're not focussed on getting work done, eating, or watching a screen.

A routine could consist of:

A bath 
Brushing their teeth 
Putting them to bed 
Reading a story 
Dimming the lights in the room 
Giving a goodnight cuddle or kiss 

Help the kids to get up in the morning too, this will help with their body clock.  Let the light in when the day dawns and it will help the body wake up more naturally. 

2. Minimise worry

So that chat time often brings up questions the kids have thought about during the day. What was that they saw on the TV / news or even youtube today? What will their school work be tomorrow? Will google classroom work properly? When will I see my teacher or friends again?

Where I can I create routines that deal with the questions so it's sorted by bedtime. This means giving time to chat with the kids during the day to cover anything they are worried about. We can't solve everything, but talking about it can help. And read this to find out what we do with the worries that we can't do anything about.

3. Create a calm and ready sleeping environment

Even if they aren't worried about something, help them by telling your body it's time to sleep too.  It can help to keep your room dark at night - use low lighting and try not to have blue light before bed (you can set many tablets and phones to 'night mode' to take out the blue light on a timer). Calming neutral colours can also help your mind to relax.

Weighted blankets or tight blankets can help some kids relax with the pressure against their body.  A canopy over a bed can make some kids feel more secure like they are surrounded like with pod moses baskets for babies. 

There's so many tips I couldn't name them all.  If there's something that helps your kids - do let us know. 


  1. As a child I used to struggle really badly with sleep. It got significantly worse during my teenage years. I would be awake for days and that would lead to significant meltdowns. Now my anxiety levels have steadied somewhat (following an appropriate diagnosis and therapy) I've gone the other way and sleep so deeply it's scary! If I don't sleep well though I find it very difficult to control my mental state so definitely agree that sleep is an important goal to work towards.

  2. It is so easy to let routines slip and it can make so much difference. We let the routine slip a bit over Christmas and suddenly my son wasn't getting to sleep until midnight and it has taken us until now to get back in a routine so he is asleep by 9.30 /10. #KCACOLS

  3. Sleep is an ongoing issue for us, though it's got A LOT better over the years, compared to when out (autistic) son was a toddler/young child. Nowadays, he sleeps an okay amount of hours for the most part, but often at the wrong times. Finding a good bedtime routine and sticking to it has been almost impossible so far. Some of the things you've mentioned here helps for us too though, such as relaxing music/sounds (and lights), as well as pressure (but not always). Thanks so much for linking up with #KCACOLS, I hope you come back again next time! x


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