Tag Archives: Sleep Disorders

Z – #AtoZChallenge on Mental Health

Welcome to the last day in the #AtoZChalleng eon mental health, dedicated to the letter Z. I am just in time to publish my post, as I was at my parents’ two hours way all day. I did take my computer, so don’t worry, this post was not my reason to leave. Anyway, today’s words are all on a common theme. Here goes.

Z-Drugs

Z-drugs are a few medications, most of whose generic names start with Z, eg. zaleplon, zopiclone and zolpidem. Besides the letter they start with, they have in common that they work similarly to benzodiazapines but are not benzos. There are three subgroups of Z-drugs, all of which are GABAA agonists, meaning they increase the availability of this neurotransmitter. Z-drugs are used in the treatment of insomnia. Some have advantages over benzdiazepine sleeping pills.

Zombie

Many psychiatric patients, especially those on long-term units, seem a bit zombielike to outsiders. I discussed this when discussing lethargy in my letter L post too. Negative symptoms of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders may cause people to act like “zombies”, but so do many psychiatric medications, including antipsychotics, anti-anxiety medications and certain antidepressants.

ZZZ

Last year, I discussed sleep in my post on the letter Z for ZZZ. To finish off this year’s challenge, I am going to discuss the same topic. Sleep disorders are common among people with mental illness and of course can be a mental illness themselves.

There are two forms of sleep disorders. Dyssomnias are disorders in the quantity, quality or timing of sleep, such as insomnia or hypersomnia. Parasomnias are characterized by unusual physiological or behavioral events that limit sleep, interfere with certain stages of sleep or with the transition from sleeping to waking. Sleepwalking is an example of a parasomnia.

Like I said, sleep disorders can occur on their own but can also be part of another mental illness. For example, many people with clinical depression experience insomnia, usually waking up way too early in the morning. Some people with depression conversely experience hypersoomnia, sleeping far too much.

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ZZZ: Sleep Problems in Autistic People #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to the last day in the A to Z Challenge on autism. In all honesty, I’m glad the challenge is over because it’s been exhausting to try to write each post and comment on other bloggers and all. Today’s post is themed appropriately for this sentiment: titled “ZZZ”, it’s all about sleep and sleep problems in autistic people.

Sleep problems are common in autistic people. Some studies estimate that as many as 80% of children with autism spectrum disorders have sleep problems. The most common problems in autistic children are difficulty falling asleep and awakening often.

There are many possible causes for sleep probls in children and adults with autism. Some early research shows that autistics show abnormalities in brain structures related to sleep. Research is also underway on autistic people’s levels of melatonin (the sleep hormone) and other chemicals released by the brain that are known for their function in regulating sleep.

Behavioral issues which contribute to sleep problems in autistics include poor sleep hygiene and problems with limit-setting. For exampe, a person may have difficulty stopping engagement in day activities. This could be because these acitivites are the person’s special interest, but it could also be that the person has trouble shifting from one type of activity (eg. gaming) to a very different activity (preparing for and going to bed). Of course, just like neurotypical people, autistic people suffer increased sleep difficulties when they’ve been engaging with electronic devices shortly before going to bed.

Some medical issues that are more common in autistic people can also cause sleep problems. These conditions include epilepsy and gastroesophageal reflux. Lastly, medications that are used for treating behavioral problems in autism, such as stimulants, can cause sleep problems too.

There are many ways in which an autistic person can improve their sleep or a parent can help their autistic child do so. For example, establishing a good bedtime routine and a healthy sleep environment can help. To be a good sleep environment, a bedroom needs to be quiet, cool and dark. For children and adults with sensory issues, this may be especially important. On the other hand, some people may actually benefit from listening to calming music while falling asleep.

Daytime behavior can also help establish healthy sleep. Exercise is good, but not too close before bedtime. Obviously, caffeine causes sleep problems. Lastly, naps are good for preschoolers but not older children. Avoid allowing your preschool child to nap late in the afternoon.

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.