Autism and Sleep: Putting Issues to Bed
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -At least half of autistic and children on the spectrum struggle with sleep patterns, with parents saying it’s closer to 80 percent. High anxiety, medication, or sleep apnea are real issues, so Ivanhoe has good advice leading to restorative sleep for parent and child.
Up to 16 percent of neurotypical children suffer from poor sleep, compared to 50 percent in kids with autism. The other is how these children process medications and hormones.
Beth Malow, MD, Director Sleep Division at Vanderbilt University Medical Center says, “Different genes can affect how we either synthesize or make melatonin in the body, or how we break it down.”
Anxiety, chronic insomnia, and middle of night awakenings are triggered for kids with no ‘off switch.’
Doctor Malow explains, “Anxiety versus over arousal can be really tricky, especially, if your child has limited language and can’t tell you what they’re experiencing. And the idea is that you just can’t turn your brain off.”
Rather than tackling problems at three in the morning, parents are advised to rewind.
“I even go backwards to what’s happening during the day. Because what’s happening during the day is going to feed into what happens at night.” says Doctor Malow.
Before bed, set the stage with quiet and low light. Plus, if sleep apnea is the cause, CPAP masks are now much less claustrophobic.
“Even people with autism, who have sensory sensitivities, can tolerate it.” says Doctor Malow.
And we all need our sleep!
Doctors say this advice should also increase REM sleep, in which we consolidate learning and clear the day’s debris from our brains. It’s most important for mental health, especially in those with autism, who get 10 percent less REM restorative sleep than neurotypical kids.
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