Hi can anyone help me with my 7.5yr old son who has aspergers. He can't seem to switch off at night and although we "start" putting him to bed around 8pm, he is nearly always still awake at 11pm and even later. Usually once he goes to sleep, he wakes later and sneaks into our bed at some stage during the night. He says he can't sleep alone, but I feel it's gone on long enough and he's so awfully tired every morning because of his late hours. Any ideas?
Sleep problems seem to be co morbid with quite a few autistic people. I know it is with me. I think I deal with delayed sleep phase syndrome as one of my sleep problems. That is I just don't feel tired until well after midnight.
Try falling asleep at noon. (Or pick another time of day you feel energetic and ready to conquer the world.) I challenge you. I suspect most people can't fall asleep at noon without finding themselves anxious, frustrated, and likely to trigger sleep paralysis (a normal process the brain does during REM sleep, only this time your body skips straight to REM mode while you are awake.) Sleep paralysis, even just one episode once and a while can be enough to scare anyone from not wanting to sleep for awhile. (Especially if they get hallucinations in the midst of it all)
SP occurs more often when people try to sleep at a time they aren't tired or when they are stressed/anxious than when things are going well and when people fall asleep when their body is ready to sleep.
Back to your son/ myself. With that image in mind of being fully awake and ready to take on what you must do... Instead of this time being noon, it's midnight.
It's midnight right now as I post. Do I feel a bit tired? Nope! In fact if I had a chance to run some laps, run a mile, I bet I could. I feel the most energetic, creative, and think the clearest around these times 7pm-3am. Around 1:30-3 am I may start to feel drowsy. I may be able to fall asleep around those times after some tossing and turning. If I go to bed around 3:30-4:30 am usually I can fall asleep rather quickly and sleep pretty sound. (With some exceptions. sometimes sleep deprivation will temporarily set my clock back a day or two, and I'll supposedly fall asleep at a "normal" or early time and sleep extra long. Or I may wake up extra early and throw off the next day’s cycle.)
This IS becoming a problem with my life, but so far I’ve managed to work around it. Being an adult I have some choices at the moment. The temporary job I work now I picked a schedule that starts at noon and ends at 4. Eventually they want me to work longer, but I’ll cross that bridge when it comes. I schedule all my appointments as much as I can to the early to mid afternoon to avoid morning conflicts.
At school I didn’t have that choice. Before puberty I went to bed late, but not after midnight usually. Around and after puberty, I’ve lost the ability to fall asleep consistently before midnight. As a result I had to consistently go to school sleep deprived… I’d make up for it by taking a required nap after I got home.
This is no help for you and your son I am sure, but hopefully it helps explain some of the frustration he must feel.
I had that problem growing up. So did one of my sisters. Did my parents do anything to help? Nope, they just let us stay up late. If I was up past 11PM, I had to watch the 11 O'clock news with my dad. When I was in high school I frequently was on the phone until 2 or 3AM with one of my friends. I grew up in the late 70s/80s. I guess parents didn't worry as much about their kids. Or maybe it was just my parents and my friends' parents. I try to be better with my daughter hoping that she won't grow up with the same sleep problems I have.
What I learned to do as an adult (I still have problems sleeping and now so does my daughter who has PDD) is to play some sort of background music or noise. What I've also learned is that background noise or music is fine for one person and not for a different person. I'm trying to find background music that will work for both my daughter and myself because I have really hyper-sensitive hearing and I can hear her music from her room so we really can only have one noise thing going on at once.
My reasons for sleep problems (also probably same for my daughter) is having problems transitioning and problems with over-sensitive hearing. It's a huge thing to get your mind to transition from wake to sleep. Another thing is over-sensitive hearing. I hear the refrigerator humming. I hear the alarm clock. I hear my husband snoring or even just breathing (usually we sleep in different rooms otherwise I just don't sleep). It's easier for an adult to do the trial and error thing with figuring out sleep. It's harder for a kid to realize what he wants or needs to help him get into dream land. I'd say I don't need the sleep like my daughter does, but that would be lying because I have joint pain issues and fatigue issues and sleep really does help my health... which helps me be a better mom which helps my daughter. And when she grows up, I'm hoping she'll have the sleep thing a little better handled than I do.
Setting up rituals is probably also a good thing. Ritual things that relax him. Like does bathtime relax him or stimulate him? I found out bathtime made my daughter extra hyper with all the splashing and playing that she has to have her bath in the morning instead of the evening. We don't let her watch any videos or TV in the evening. That stimulates her brain and keeps her going on overdrive. I find that it helps me too. Does music relax or stimulate him? You can also try background noise instead of music. For awhile I was using an air filter/purifier in my room which helped me stay asleep but I had problems getting to sleep so I stopped using it at night. Oh, other thing i figured out was that certain books excite my daughter and make her hyper, so I try to keep books that she likes but doesn't get overly excited about for nighttime reading.
You can actually buy sleep CDs that play rhythmic sounds that help your brain get to the proper REM state they need to be. I haven't tried any out yet, but I am tempted to go buy one for my daughter.
Oh, the other thing I figured out my daughter needed was different sleep. Like she sleeps 9 hours at night with a 3 to 4 hour nap during the daytime. Is this normal for an almost 3 year old? Not what the books say... she's supposed to get 12 hours at night with a 1 hour nap. She's never done anything by the books, so why would sleep be any different? Granted, she doesn't have to go to school yet, so right now I can let her do what her body wants/needs.
Another thing that keeps me up is stopping my mind from thinking. I don't read books as often anymore because I find that I have to finish the whole thing in one sitting. That was a fine thing to do before I had kids when i could read all Saturday. If your son is an avid reader, is he thinking about books at night? Are his favorite characters playing in his head and he doesn't want to give up that train of thought to go to sleep? Maybe he's creating his own stories.
Well, anyways, there are like a ton of reasons that both I and my daughter have sleep problems... and here I am typing in the middle of the night because a thunderstorm woke me up and made me all awake... I couldn't get back to sleep. *sigh*
Oh, another comment... if you have established rituals that you think should be changed with your son because you think it might make your son more awake instead of more tired... I would gradually phase them out or change them one at a time very slowly. WIth my daughter, she is really big on rituals... you change one of her rituals, you change her world view which is a big bad thing.
Um, sorry for the third posting... Another thing with sensory integration therapy, is some kids benefit from having a weighted blanket. You can google sensory integration therapy and weighted blankets and see what comes up on the internet. My daughter's occupational therapist let us borrow one, but my daughter hates having blankets on her, so I never bothered looking into it. Some sites are cheaper than others. Some moms with kids on the spectrum started making their own and now sell them on the internet. Weighted vests are also another option, though they may be harder to sleep with. Pressure vests also another option. It all depends if your son has sensory issues with aspergers or not... if he has a craving for contact these things might help him sleep. So if he has a craving it might help but if he has a sensory avoidance it might not. My daughter's occupational therapist said that it does work for most kids on the spectrum, though, just not all.
i give my child massages when he cannot sleep, last night he finally fell asleep at midight, i am so scared of medication, i finally found a drug to help me with my aspergers symptoms but i am experiencing bad side affects so i try not to give my son a ton of medication, i do allow him to take melatonin or atarax if he has not slept in a few days
my friends son with asp takes clonidine, i might consider this if needed
another thing you might try, read to him and if he is still awake buy him a cd player and a book on cd, let him listen to it for 30 minutes or so
one thing i remember about being a kids was not being able to sleep, so it breaks my heart when i know joe is awake,
Sleep problems are so very common. My children sleep in bed with either their dad or me. We haven't taught them this, it is just a case of surviving. I don't want to medicate them, but they often fall asleep at 11.00pm at night and are like zombies in the morning.
We keep them to a ritual, and I don't let them sleep in late. But if your body clock is like that, you just have to work with it. I myself find it hard to go to bed at a reasonable time. I am frequently awake into the early hours, and I know that if I slept when I was tired I would be asleep during the day and awake all night. That is not a healthy sleep pattern and I know it.
Just do what you have to do to get your kids and yourself to sleep. If that means taking turns sleeping with them then do that. I think the problem is all down to brain chemicals and I don't think there is a solution to it. And medications are not a healthy option either. You can try and make sure they get some exercise early evening and get them into a bedtime routine, but there is not much more than that you can do.
There have been a couple of times when my kids have been so tired that they haven't gone into school the next day. It doesn't happen often, and I'm not happy about it but that is our life! I felt a bit better when I went to visit a special ed school for those on the spectrum and a teacher was sat in the reception area with a pupil who was alseep on the couch. Apparently this pupil had sleep issues and quite often slept for part of the day.
Many people say to me that when they become teenagers they tend to sleep more. But people have been saying that to me since my kids were born ie. when they begin to walk they'll get tired, when they start school they'll get tired etc etc and it never happened.
Hey thanks everyone for replying so quickly and giving me so many ideas. I'm working through them all! Medication scares me too and I'm beginning to accept that this is just a part of who he is, it's just awful to see him so tired in the morning and having to shake him awake. Taking the time to reply to me is very much appreciated.
Good luck with the sleeping. It's past 1am today and I still don't feel like I've accomplished enough in the day to just let myself drop asleep... Maybe it's soemwhat an anxiety thing, though I don't feel anxious. I just feel like I want to do so many more things and that I ran out of time... I hate running out of time... I have to resign to the fact that there are only 24 hours a day - 8 = 16 - 3 (to take in meal times, bathroom, and feed the cats) = 13 - 4 (the hours I work each day on Wed-Friday) = 9 useable hours, maybe out of those "ideally" only 4 -6 of those for free time...but I tend to let house work slide... And I can't forget watering my plants which ursups about another hour or two depending on the heat and if all 100 some have dried out and are wilting... Not to forget the outdoor ones that may take another hour...
Now I'm beginning to understand why I haven't been able to do a painting for someone I said I would do. It burdens my concious and makes me wonder why I don't just come clean with the person and tell them that the painting they've waited for several months won't get done because I don't have time or the modivation... *sigh* I guess I find it more comforting to just put it off and not talk to the person and deal with the nagging guilt....
I wish we had more hours to a day, but something tells me I'll still find myself running out of time...
It is a good thing you are coming here and looking at alternative ideas other than powerful drugs,if you look at a lot of the Posts the children are diagnosed and then put on this stuff, it does have si de effects and it is great you are thinking its just him, Take a good look at how he is at home, Get his Dad involved a lot with him he need wearing out with Fun and Games and Guy stuff, or a Male Family relative or friend.When he comes to your bed take him back to his own a lot of this stuff is you being so caring and wanting to do the Best for him, it wont take long for him to realise you mean it.How about some quiet reading before bed no loud exciting TV or PC mostly I would say get him tired out doesnt sound like he needs diagnosing with anything other than Normalboyitas!
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