Unfortunately, many autistic children (around 40% and 80%) suffer from sleeping problems. These issues include difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, poor quality sleep, or waking up too early in the morning. Insufficient sleep can trigger anxiety and depression, and it impacts the child’s learning ability and behavior. It’s recommended that one gets 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Otherwise, you will feel tired all week.
The exact cause of sleep deprivation in children with autism is unknown, but several theories exist. One theory suggests that the autistic child’s brain may be wired differently than other people’s brains. The difference could make it difficult to fall asleep at night because your body needs time to relax before you go to bed. Another reason is that kids with ASD struggle with sensory processing challenges. Their increased sensitivity to outside stimuli makes them more likely to wake up during the night.
Melatonin is also believed to be lower in children with autism. The sleep hormone helps regulate the circadian rhythm and plays a vital role in regulating mood and alertness levels throughout the day. It’s speculated that people on the spectrum don’t release melatonin as neurotypical people do, and they experience high levels of melatonin during the day and produce less during the night.
The result of insomnia is fatigue, which leads to irritability, decreased attention span, and lower academic achievements. Lack of sleep is often linked to health concerns such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia. In children with autism, it can lead to behavioral changes, impaired social skills, and reduced performance in school. In addition, it causes memory loss and decreased focus.
If you suspect your child has sleeping problems, talk to your pediatrician first. Your doctor will see the signs and will rule out any medical issues. Here, you will find more about autism and sleeping problems and what you can do to help your child get a good night’s sleep.