Sleep Strategies for People with Autism or ADHD

For as long s I can remember, I’ve had skewy sleep patterns. I either slept too little, too much, at the wrong time, or didn’t feel refreshed during the day. Sleep problems are pretty common in people with neurodevelopmental disorders like autism or ADHD. It is not fully understood why autistic and ADHD people have sleep problems, but there may be several reasons, such as fear of going to sleep (due to for example fear of the unknown) and difficulty breaking out of routines. I for one have a terrible time switching from one activity to another, and that includes shifting from waking to sleeping and vice versa. For people who have ADHD, both its symptoms and the medication taken for it may also keep you awake.

There are many strategies for people with autism or ADHD to use in order to get a better sleep/wake cycle and more refreshing sleep. on the World of Psychology blog, Margarita Tartakovsky lists some strategies for adults with ADHD, many of which can also be used by autistics. For example, it is important for autistics to realize the importance of sleep too. It may be useful to have someone create a social story for you to learn why and when to sleep. If it’s possible, create a separate sleeping space. Use your bedroom only for sleeping or, if that’s not possible, at least don’t take your electronics to bed.

Sensory issues may also be a factor in difficulty sleeping. Tartakossky suggests using noise-canceling tools for sleep, but some people can’t sleep without sound. For them, it may be useful to listen to music while in bed. Maybe a plain and simple MP3 player is best rather than your smartphone, on which you can be tempted to chck Facebook rather than just listen to music while falling asleep. In addition to sound, consider smell and light in creating a comfortable sleeping space. Again, some people like a certain smell, such as lavender, in their bedrooms, while others hate any smell. Some people, even adults, need a small light on while sleeping, while others need complete darkness. It may be hard to know whicch level of sensory stimulation is most comfortable to you, so it may take some experimenting. That’s okay. You can’t get a proper sleep/wake cycle in just one night.


2 thoughts on “Sleep Strategies for People with Autism or ADHD

  1. Thank you for posting this. I have an 8 yr old son with severe autism, learning disabilities and complex needs. We have many sleepless nights, more than I care to count and yet other nights, he will sleep like a rock. There is no difference to his room or to his routine so to us, it is just completely beyond us. As he is non verbal, I doubt that he will ever be able to tell us but at least with information like this out there, then we may stand half a chance of settling into a reasonable routine eventually. Thank you. šŸ™‚


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