Those few magical hours between when your children go to sleep and when your head hits the pillow are invaluable. Maybe it's your time to catch up on household chores, maybe it's YOU time to check in with friends on Facebook or read a book, maybe it's the important time you have to catch up and reconnect with your spouse. However you use your time, when your child can't sleep, it changes the balance of your day.
A recent study of parents of children with autism (Williams, Sears, & Allard, 2004) found that reported sleep problems include trouble falling asleep, restless sleep, not falling asleep in the child's own bed, and waking up frequently. Williams et. al also noted the health dangers of disrupted sleep patterns. Vision problems, upper respiratory problems, and runny nose were associated with decreased nighttime sleep. Vision problems, poor appetite, and poor growth were associated with increased nighttime waking. Poor appetite and poor growth were associated with decreased willingness to fall asleep (http://goo.gl/uqE59).
Issues with sleep patterns seem to be particularly vexing for families that include a child on the Autism spectrum. This is due in part to additional sensory issues and increased anxiety
The recommended sleep times for children are:
15 hours for infants; 12 – 14 hours for toddlers; 10 – 12 hours for pre-schoolers and 8 – 10 hours for school-aged kids.
While there is no one size fits all solution for helping your child with to sleep more soundly there are things that you can do to create the conditions for a sound nights sleep. Here are a few suggestions that came from friends who I reached out to for advice and tips.