Owen and Ben's Journey Through Autism

Owen and Ben's Journey Through Autism

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sleeping Habits

This has been one of the most difficult area we have come to face on this journey with Owen. I used to have him on an amazing routine, he went to bed at roughly 8-8:30pm, no issues, would actually sometimes put himself to bed. Since he turned 2 yrs old, things have changed. I almost think he is so freakin smart, he knows I can not put him to bed when he screams, because he will wake up the other 2 - smart little bugger.

Now, he has a hard time falling asleep, unless it is when I go to bed - this isn't till roughly 11:30pm.. which is way too late. I have noticed it is totally affecting his concentration at therapy, which they have noticed, and also at Preschool...not fun.

I have asked some of Owen's support team what they would do, and they gave me some great suggestions, because this week everyone has really noticed he has been a little off. He has been more so in his own world, and I really hope this has to do with his sleeping patterns..and not some sort of regression.

This afternoon, I searched google,and this is what I found -

What causes sleep disorders in children with autism?

Researchers don't know for sure why autistic children have problems with sleep, but they have several theories. The first has to do with social cues. People know when it's time to go to sleep at night thanks to the normal cycles of light and dark and the body's circadian rhythms. But they also use social cues. For example, children may see their siblings getting ready for bed. Children with autism, who often have difficulty communicating, may misinterpret or fail to understand these cues.

Another theory has to do with the hormone melatonin, which normally helps regulate sleep-wake cycles. To make melatonin, the body needs an amino acid called tryptophan, which research has found to be either higher or lower than normal in children with autism. Typically, melatonin levels rise in response to darkness (at night) and dip during the daylight hours. Studies have shown that some children with autism don't release melatonin at the correct times of day. Instead, they have high levels of melatonin during the daytime and lower levels at night.

Another reason children with autism may have trouble falling asleep or awaken in the middle of the night could be an increased sensitivity to outside stimuli, such as touch or sound. While most kids continue to sleep soundly while their mother opens the bedroom door or tucks in the covers, a child with autism might wake up abruptly.

Anxiety is another possible condition that could adversely affect sleep. Children with autism tend to test higher than other children for anxiety.
What kind of effects do sleep problems have?

Not getting a good night's sleep can have a serious impact on a child's life and overall health. Research has shown that, in children with autism, there is a connection between lack of sleep and the following characteristics:

* aggression
* depression
* hyperactivity
* increased behavioral problems ****************
* irritability ********************************* -- All 3 happening all week
* poor learning and cognitive performance ******

But your child isn't the only person affected. If he or she isn't sleeping, there's a good chance you aren't either. One study shows that the parents of autistic children sleep less, have poorer sleep quality, and wake up earlier than parents of non-autistic children.

How do I know whether my child has a sleep disorder?

Every child needs a slightly different amount of sleep. In general, these are the amounts of sleep children require, by age:

* Ages 1-3: 12-14 hours of sleep per day
* Ages 3-6: 10-12 hours of sleep per day
* Ages 7-12: 10-11 hours of sleep per day

So, this evening when Ryan went to the gym - I turned off his shows, laid him on the couch with his fav. blankie, and no word of a lie, in 15 minutes - out. I want to do anything and everything I can to keep Owen at his best, to keep him less behavioural, less anxious - happy. Looks like there will be a lot more earlier nights for this house ;)

Happy Owen - Happy Mommy.

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