About 73% of children with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) experience sleep problems. These problems can tend to last longer for children with AS than they would for children without AS. For example, children with Asperger’s would be more likely to be sluggish and disorientated after waking up. Poor sleep affects mood and how your child functions through the day, so it’ll be harder for them to concentrate in school and they may show disruptive behaviour. The good news is that there are ways to help children with Asperger’s get a good night’s sleep.

What is Asperger’s Syndrome?

People with Asperger’s Syndrome see, hear, and feel the world differently to other people. Some people with Asperger’s may also have mental health issues or other conditions, so different people need different levels and types of support. Also, people with Asperger’s do not have the learning difficulties that many autistic people have. However, they may have specific learning difficulties. For example, they could have fewer problems with speech but might still struggle with understanding and processing language.1

How Can You Help Your Child Get A Good Night’s Sleep?

There is no one way to manage the sleep problems that children with Asperger’s may be experiencing. However, there are many ways that can be helpful in easing the problems. It’s important to remember that your child may show resistance at first, and problems could get worse before you and your child gradually become accustomed to new routines.

Exercise

Exercise is a great way to ensure that your child is tired when they go to bed. Taking your child for a walk or getting them to join an after-school activity will help them to release some of their energy. However, make sure that their exercise is not within 2 – 4 hours of bedtime. This will only make falling asleep harder as it can disrupt the natural cooling process of the body that leads to rest at night.

Relaxing Bedtime Routine

It’s a good idea to help your child relax so that they’re ready to rest when it comes to bedtime. Have a period before bedtime, about 30 – 45 minutes, that is completely devoted to being calm and relaxed. During this period, keep screen time limited – TVs, laptops, phones, video games, or tablets can stimulate your child through activity, sound, and light. Instead, fill the time with a relaxing bath, changing into pyjamas, maybe a quick snack, and finishing with a bedtime story before your child goes to sleep. It’s important that you’re consistent with this every night.

Regular Sleep Routine

Setting and keeping a regular time to sleep and wake is one of the best ways to help your child sleep well. Although it’s tempting to let your child catch up on sleep in the weekends, letting them lie-in on the mornings will make it harder for them to fall asleep at night. Therefore, keeping your child on a regular schedule will avoid disturbances to their sleep.

Diet

Keep your child away from foods and drinks that contain caffeine, such as chocolate, ice-cream, and soft drinks. However, food that is rich in protein may promote better sleep. Plus, large meals within 2 – 3 hours of bedtime should also be avoided. Something as simple as a glass of milk before bedtime can help minimise hunger at night. For children who often wake up during the night to use the bathroom, and then find it hard to get back to sleep, it’s a good idea to limit their fluid intake within the two hours before bedtime.

The Bedroom

It’s important that the bed and bedroom are associated with sleep and are not associated with activity. Plus, the best environment for a good sleep is a room that’s dark, quiet, and cool, so avoiding extreme changes in temperature at night is a great way to help your child snooze soundly. Just as a dark room helps your child sleep, a bright one will help them wake up. Therefore, it’s important to open the curtains first thing in the morning so that as much sunlight as possible is let into your child’s bedroom.

Remember, the best way to help children with Asperger’s who are struggling to sleep well is to consult a doctor. If your child is struggling to get a good night’s sleep, they will help you find best way to help your child.

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Footnotes

  1. https://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/asperger.aspx
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