Hi there. My son, 10, was just diagnosed with Aspergers. We realize that he has a huge issue with falling asleep and this causes many of his symptoms during the day. Is there anything that we can do as parents to help him 'shut off his brain' at night so he can fall asleep?
My 9 year old daughter has sleeping issues and has always had them. I'd tuck her into bed at night, then go into her room in the morning to wake her up and find her in a play dress, dress shoes, crown and necklaces.... she'd get up after tuck in and play in her room until she fell asleep.
We had her tonsils removed at age five due to their size and chronic issues, and the ENT told us that maybe it would help her sleeping... but it didn't.
So, we've tried a few different things... the first thing is that our therapist told her to get her a routine. Have set times and set actions. So, 8:00pm is tooth brushing time, it's a rule. We have what is called "The Rule Book" and this is where her rules go. She has rules like, "ask an adult if it is ok to give away your toys before you give them away".
Anyway, every night should be as consistent as possible. Next, I sing her a "tuck in song". I will lay with her and talk to her a few minutes, just to get her to start settling down, then I will sing the song. She knows that the song means tuck in is over.
She also knows that if she can't fall asleep there are a couple of things she's allowed to do. For instance, she has a little laser pointer that she keeps under her pillow. If she can't fall asleep, as long as she stays in bed and is settled, she can play with the light on the ceiling. It seems to settle her down and relax her and she will usually drift off.
Some nights are just bad nights and she can't get settled or she is too scared to fall asleep. On those nights. I will let her lay in bed with the lights on. But, she knows that the rule is... if you stay up later than bedtime on one night, the next night means bedtime is automatically one hour earlier.
Thank you EricaL for telling me about your daughter. My son has always had sleeping problems too. My son asked me a few days ago why he always feels worried about things while he is trying to fall asleep. I know exactly what he means because the same thing keeps me up every night as well. That laser pointer idea is a good idea..I wonder if that would relax him. Right now he puts the radio on every night to help him fall asleep, but maybe we can get him a laser pointer as well. My son is very rule oriented and he loves routines, but as soon as we leave him, he comes back downstairs a zillion times for cups of water, to ask us things, etc
Oh yes, I'm very familiar with the up and out of bed. The requests for water, the requests to lay in my bed, the comments that she isn't tired, the comments that it's too dark, the comments that it is too scary... she also is a worrier and as she's laying in bed, many times she'll start talking about things she misses or people who she thinks have been mean to her and she'll start getting upset.
She often does get scared... We put decals of angels on the wall near her bed (those removable ones that are decorative for bedroom walls)... it comforts her to see her angels on the wall and they are "magic" and protect her while she sleeps. She has also requested that I buy her a dreamcatcher because she has nightmares... she was told about dream catchers by my mother and she is convinced that it will help her sleep. So, that's another thing we may get her.
When she gets really worried and starts to cry and get upset... that's when it's trickier. Sometimes I give her one of her teddy bears and tell her to hug it tight, super tight. Sometimes we talk about it a little bit and I just reassure her. Sometimes I tell her that those are things we should talk about the next day and what she should do right then is think happy thoughts. Usually her first response is, "I can't." So then I give her things to think about.... "How about you think about us all going to the pool tomorrow, how about you think about going to the library, how about you think of what you'd like to get sister for her birthday..." etc. The doc calls this redirection. Basically, I've got to try and get her train of thought off the negative and onto something positive. If it's a topic she's interested in, she'll focus on it and sometimes that's a huge help.
I know so well what you are going through. My son was 4 years and 2 months old when he was diagnosed with mild Asbergers. Up until that time, he had only slept at night a few times since birth. He would be so wired that he could not shut down to sleep no matter what we did. My husband and I slept in shifts because he would wander at night and sometimes get into things that were dangerous no matter how child proof we thought we had made our home. Finally after more than 4 years, when he was diagnosed, we were referred to a pediatrician who specialized in Autism Spectrum Disorders. We discussed the Asberger's diagnosis and almost as an after-thought, I mentioned the sleep disorder telling the dr. that sometimes our son would go 36 hours with no sleep. He immediately said he knew what we were going through and prescribed 0.1 mg of Clonidine given at bedtime. The first evening we gave it to him, he was asleep within 30 minutes and has not had any sleep issues since. I have also noticed a great improvement of some of the Asberger's symptoms. I know that not all parents want their child to take medication but for us this was the answer to a prayer. I hope this helps. God bless your family.
yeah people with aspers also have sleep disorder, i have tried so many drugs for this, so has my 10 yr old son, the only medications that i could recommend are otc sleep aids and tenex, all the other meds made us gain weight or hung over in the morning, some of them even caused mania and depression
non-medicinal tricks that have help us is bed time massages with organic coconut oil, heating pad or electric blankets, at night i read both my children stories then i have to turn on a book on tape for my aspie son who is now taking otc sleep aid that his doc approved, i am not a fan of medication but sometimes its best to treat a medical issue with medicine, a good talk with an understanding doctor, and a sleep study may help the situation, those sleep studies are aweful but we were so desperate, i wish you luck i know what you are going through, please do not feel alone with this struggle, no one can sleep if their child is staying up all night, its impossible, affects the entire family
Thank you everyone for your comments. Yes, my son has always had sleeping problems, from an infant on. I know that if I can get him to sleep well at night, he will lost many of his symptoms, I've seen it happen when he has a good night's sleep. I might have to ask my doctor about the 0.1 mg of Clonidine - I know that my nephew takes that to help him fall asleep at night and it works well for him. I am scared to put my son on medicines, and so is my husband, but I know that meds might be the only thing to help my son calm down about everything. I did buy the laser pointer for my son to draw on the ceiling (that EricaL kindly suggested), but he says that every time that he uses it, his brain makes him feel like he is doing something wrong / being naughty. So even though it is supposed to relax him, it is stressing him out thinking that he is going to get in trouble for using it. I also purchased a cd set that tells stories that are supposed to relax kids who have autism / aspergers called indigo dreams. I don't think it will work for my son, but I will try anything.
Thank you everyone. Please keep posting ideas, I am loving reading them.
yeah my sons friend takes clonidine for agression and sleep, our doctor recommended tenex vs. clonidine, they are both bp meds, if you do start with the clonidine make sure that you do not abrubtly stop this medication, can cause spike in bp, very dangerous
i am so glad that medicine has changed, when i was little they put me on speed, ritilin, that made things so much worse, now they noticed that the speedy drugs cause mania, depression, etc so they are slowly being replace with different class of drugs
its not easy making the descion to medicate, i still cry myself to sleep when a doctor reccoemends a new drug, because i have already heard of the side effects
last night i gave both my kids massages with the coconut oil, they went straight to bed!!!!! i told then that if they get along during the day, no arguing at all that i would massage them every night, if they work hard on being nice to each other, its kind of a pain, but i find it to be helpful with sleep and behavior, if you are like my husband and cannot give a massage, you can find a local massage school that is reasonable, i do it myself, i am the families massage master......lol
I've always had trouble falling asleep even as a child. One thing is the dark- my eyes had a tendency to make shapes or fluctuations in lighting out of the graininess of the night...it can be quite disturbing.I sleep with at least one light on. Sometimes I'm sensitive to sound as well... That's where leaving my computer on comes handy...it blocks out some of those night time noises. Also it seems night is the time I feel the most focused and creative. It's hard to cut myself short at that time. But then I have to wake up in the day time... I'm trying to find balance in that aspect of my life but still not quite there yet....
My son has many sensory issues and we've had some issues with sleep as well. What helps him the most is deep pressure. We give him this ourselves before bed (sandwich between pillow on the floor, tight squeezes, etc.) and then use either a weighted blanket or weighted lap pad for his bed. Our OT gave us info on a sheet that tucks kids into bed super tight which would drive me crazy by my son really likes. He has a body sock and his OT suggested he sleep in that. We haven't tried that as the other things help him. He still likes to sit with me to rock as well and while I do it, I squeeze him tight. (he's 5). Warm baths are an obvious helper too. We make sure nothing too stimulating happens at night as well. I have to remind him AND dad about this as my husband may try to play a little wild before bed thinking it will tire him out. It has the opposite effect. Good luck.
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