[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]One of the most exhausting aspects of raising a child with autism can be the sleep deprivation. Unless your child is one of the minority that sleeps through the night, I’m singing your song!
First, let’s look at why so many children with autism have such poor sleep patterns. (To read about the science behind the disrupted sleep patterns, and our step-by-step protocols for restoring great sleep, check out The Un-Prescription for Autism here.) About three out of four of my patients cannot sleep through the night. I look for three main culprits:
3 Reasons Your Child May Not Sleep Through the Night
1. Acid Reflux – Your child can have acid reflux and you would never know it. Most of the parents in my practice shake their head at first and insist their child does not have reflux. You may be doing it right now! But if your child stays hyper-busy during the day (to take his mind off of the burning discomfort), does things like gritting his teeth or facial grimacing, and puts off going to bed until you are ready to pull your hair out—he may have reflux. Lying down flat to sleep lets stomach acid swoosh right up his esophagus, causing burning and pain, and waking him up throughout the night. If you notice other clues like burping, spitting up, irritability, a tendency to fall asleep sitting up on the couch, or if you give medicines like Prevacid or Nexium, here’s your sign!
2. Pain and inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract – Again, most parents in my practice automatically answer that their child doesn’t have this—but wait…think about it. Does your child drape his or her tummy over the arm of the couch or the edge of the coffee table? Drape over piles of pillows, fit balls or the side of the mattress? Goes to sleep easily, but then awakens several times throughout the night? Have you told yourself it’s just bad dreams, or separation anxiety, or worse—that it’s just “his normal”? Autism clinics report that up to 70% of their patients have gastrointestinal pain, inflammation and even ulceration which can disrupt normal sleep patterns.
3. Abnormal neurotransmitter or hormone levels – If my basic protocols do not quickly restore normal sleep patterns, I may run a lab test to check on other reasons why a child with autism may not be able to get a good night’s sleep. Sometimes there are high levels of excitatory neurotransmitters keeping him or her awake. There are nutritional supplements which may help counter-balance these abnormal levels.
I remember (sort of!) how painful the first five years of my oldest son’s life were and how he seemed to never sleep. Even now, those memories are a blur of exhaustion. For the majority of my patients, healing the gastrointestinal tract is the key to restoring normal sleep patterns. Sleep patterns usually begin to normalize around the third or fourth week of our Basic GI Protocol, and is one of the happiest improvements for the families at our center. Pretty soon, Mom is smiling, looking rested and even wearing make-up again! And of course, nothing beats a good night’s sleep for your child’s health and happiness.
Try the Un-Prescription Basic GI Protocol and see if your child begins to sleep better![/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]
8 Things You Can Do to Improve Sleep Patterns:
1. Elevate the head of the mattress in case your child has hidden reflux – just stuff a pillow under the mattress, it only takes a few inches of elevation to provide quick relief.
2. Don’t eat close to bedtime. Eat the last meal or snack at least an hour before bedtime.
3. Turn off all screens—TV, computers, gaming systems, etc.—about an hour before bedtime.
4. Go to bed at the same time every night, even on weekends. Bedtime routines should be predictable, soothing and quiet. Save the wrestling for during the day!
5. Take a warm bath and encourage play with water toys. Water is very calming for many children with autism. Add a cup of Epsom salts to the water: it’s inexpensive and calming!
6. Turn down the thermostat – cool temperatures promote better sleep. I always sleep better in a cool room!
7. Make sure your child’s bedroom isn’t located on the side of the house where the heat pump is right under his window. Children with autism often cannot tune out noises that we don’t even pay attention to anymore. A barking dog, a busy road, a heat pump that kicks on and off all night can keep them up for hours.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]
8. For a hands on Action Plan for how your child can get a good’s night sleep without sleeping pills, read our award-winning book, The Un-Prescription for Autism. You can find it here on Amazon (the Kindle version is only $3.79). If you’d like a copy signed by the author (and bling-ed out with award stickers!), you can find it here.