For Autism Acceptance Week (27th March – 2nd April) and Autism Awareness Month (April), the sleep experts at Happy Beds have collaborated with the National Autistic Society to share how autism can affect a person’s sleep before sharing their top tips for improving their slumber.
These are the most common sleep difficulties for those with Autism
Through a survey conducted in partnership with the National Autistic Society, Happy Beds found that, on average, those with autism have six hours or less of sleep a night and also reported sleep difficulties. Nearly four in five people with autism said they had difficulty falling asleep in the first place and experienced restless sleep throughout the night.
Almost two in three (59%) people said that they wake up during the night, which can cause many problems in itself, such as not being able to get back to sleep, and 48% also reported waking up too soon in the morning.
These sleep difficulties can cause problems for the day ahead, such as tiredness and increased mood changes, which can be exhausting on top of managing a lifelong condition.
Anxiety causes the biggest sleep issues for those with autism
Happy Beds also surveyed those with autism to uncover the main causes of sleep issues and found that anxiety is the main cause of their sleep difficulties.
The research discovered that 70% of people with autism feel that anxiety is the main cause of their sleep difficulties, with 52% saying it was school or work worries, which can also cause a huge amount of anxiety.
Other common answers included 44% saying they had sensory issues, which can often result from surroundings and environment, and TV and internet use also affected over 25% and caused sleep issues.
A lack of routine can affect those with autism more than those who don’t have the condition, with over a quarter of respondents saying that this lack of routine can cause sleep problems. If a bedtime routine is disrupted, this can make it a lot harder for someone with autism to get a truly restful sleep.
Use blackout blinds to create a darker bedroom
The sleep experts at Happy Beds discovered that 59% of people surveyed said a dark room is essential for an ideal sleep environment, with 41% noting the importance of blackout blinds.
The experts at Happy Beds recommend trying to make your bedroom as dark as possible when it comes to your bedtime, as this can help to reduce sensory issues.
Play background music to distract from anxious thoughts
Playing music can help those with autism as it allows a focus on something that can help create calmer thoughts if anxiety is a reason for not sleeping.
Music is a great distraction from anxious thoughts that can become present at night, such as school or work worries.
Use a weighted blanket
The survey revealed that many respondents said weighted blankets helped to get a good night’s sleep, and this can be a great way to feel safe and secure in your bedroom.
Weighted blankets can give a person a sense of comfort and security, which can help reduce anxious thoughts. They are also really comfortable, but make sure that you choose a material which doesn’t create any sensory issues.
Create a bedtime schedule
If you feel like a lack of routine is something you’re struggling with and that causes sleep disruption, then you perhaps need to become more regimented.
Writing yourself a calming bedtime schedule and sticking to it can help your body wind down and switch off, and getting into this routine will make your sleep much more fulfilling.