Autism in Our Home: Sleep Issues


As I sat down to write this article in our “What is Autism Like in Our Home” series, I noticed sleep problems was up next. I busted out laughing right at the table! My kids probably thought I was insane, but I have a habit of doing that a lot. Usually from something I read on Facebook or a text from my best friend.

This area has been one of the hardest for me to deal with. I need my sleep, and when I don’t get it it’s not pretty. Just ask my husband. 😉

What Autism Looks Like in Our Home - Sleep Issues

So sleep issues . . . where do I start?

Our son was never, ever, ever a good sleeper. And by good sleeper I mean sleep through the night for at least for 6 hours in a row without waking up.

Well, I take that back. At around 4 months old, he started sleeping like 6 hours in a row for about one or two weeks. This was around the same time we switched from breast milk to formula. That was the end of his good sleeping streak. And he’s been keeping this pattern up ever since.

I can count on one hand, how many times he’s slept through the night. On these rare occasions, my husband and I wake up, notice he’s not in our bed, and go check on him to be sure he’s still breathing. I am NOT joking. He NEVER sleeps through the night in his own bed. EVER.

We’ve had lots of advice given to us by well-meaning people. And before he was ever diagnosed with ADHD or Autism, we thought we were not trying hard enough to make him sleep through the night or in his own bed for that matter.

We tried bedtime stories, allowing him to enjoy a show on Netflix on our phones, playing a game on our phones with him, sitting on the bottom of his bed while he fell asleep, sitting in a chair next to his bed while he fell asleep, and so on. Nothing worked.

In order for him to sleep, we had to lay down with him in bed, wait for him to be fast asleep and then get out of bed and join the rest of the family. Then sometime during the night he would make his way to our room and crawl in bed with us.

Our son is now 7 years old. This still happens on a nightly basis. And 99% of the time I never feel him climbing over me to get into bed. He just appears there every single morning.

I know some of you out there may be saying to yourself or to me, “At least your son sleeps! There are many nights my child won’t sleep at all!” I hear you sister (or brother)! We went through the same thing. In fact, there are times we still do.

I remember many nights one of us would be up in the living room with him because he just was not sleepy. We would get him something to drink, something to eat, let him watch a TV show, just lay down on the couch in the dark. Nothing worked.

I don’t know about you, but if I go with very little sleep I either end up like a zombie or a woman with a terrible case of PMS. (My poor family when I don’t sleep.) I am exhausted. My nerves are on edge. I have very little patience. And many of you probably already know that little sleep and depression do not mix well at all.

Thank you Jesus, that we have found a “sleepy medicine” for him as we call it. It was prescribed by our psychiatrist and we continue to use it to this day. It only lasts for about 4 hours so there’s no residual side effects when he wakes up, and if he wakes up, say at 3:00 am, we can safely give him another dose.

What have we done to help our little blessing sleep?

Honestly, we have given up.

Seriously, we no longer fight the whole bedtime routine. You want to know why?

Because WE LOVE SLEEP. In fact, we need to sleep. We know what happens to us and our other children when they do not sleep. And it’s not pretty.

[Tweet “We no longer fight the whole bedtime routine. Because we love sleep.”]

So every night we give him his sleep medicine and an hour later either lay down with him in his bed until he’s out, let him go to bed with us, right in between us, or we let him fall asleep on the couch watching a TV show or Netflix on his tablet.

It’s not a fight worth fighting. As long as our whole house can sleep we are fine with it.

We do take measures in order to help us get the much needed sleep we are missing at times.

We take turns staying up with him, so the other parent can go to bed early.

We take turns getting up with him on Saturdays, so the other parent can sleep in.

He spends the night with Grandma and she is fully aware that she may not get any sleep the nights he’s over. But she’s willing to do it to help us out. And it’s wonderful. 🙂

Do you have any children who have sleep issues? For any reason at all? What kinds of things do you try to help your child sleep? Or to help yourself get some much needed rest?

I hope this post has spurred on some great ideas for you and your family. And I also hope you realize you are not alone through all these different issues we’ve been talking about.

Thank you for joining me during this series. This week we’ll also be tackling anxiety and oral sensory issues (aka my son does not eat).

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  1. Pingback: 6 Tools to Help Calm Your Anxious Child – Living With Real Joy

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