get your autistic child to sleep well

How to get your autistic child to sleep well at night?

How to get your autistic child to sleep well at night?

Autistic children find it difficult to go to sleep and stay asleep through the night. Some common causes for them to have sleep issues include difficulties with relaxing or winding down, restless sleep, bad dreams, bed-wetting, unable to communicate if any pain at night, snoring or sensory processing issues causing anxiety. Did you know a massage right before sleeping can help your autistic child relax and can release sensory overload? You can ask your physiotherapist or occupational therapist for guidance and tips on how to massage.

In this article, you will learn about different nutritional deficiencies and foods that can be the cause of disturbed sleep or difficulty sleeping.

Autistic children are more prone to poor gut health as well as gastrointestinal problems. Poor gut health can also cause low production of GABA which has a calm effect and reduces anxiety. A diet low in Glutamate and foods that help improve gut health and increase GABA levels.

There are three questions to consider to conclude your child isn’t sleeping well.

  • The first one is- can your child go to sleep without any fuss within 15 minutes?

  • The second one is- Does your child wake up by themselves frequently at night and can’t go back to sleep?

  • The third one- Does your autistic child get 8-10 hours of sleep daily?

Here is the answer to get your child to sleep well at night.

Step 1: Sleep routine

Begins with implementing a consistent 30-minute bedtime routine. The best time to put your child to sleep regularly is between 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm. A bedtime routine can help with regulating sleep and the circadian rhythm. You can read this article to learn more about sleep problems and solutions in autistic children.

Step 2: Diet recommendation

Your child may have deficiencies in certain nutrients or he/she may not be eating certain foods that promote sleep.

Here are some examples of what type of nutrients your child may be missing out on.

1. Complex carbohydrates:

Foods rich in complex carbohydrates like whole grains, brown rice, quinoa, and oats can help increase the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation.

2. Tryptophan-rich foods:

Tryptophan helps produce serotonin, converted to melatonin and is used in the brain to help sleep and maintain circadian rhythm.

Foods containing tryptophan include turkey, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, and seeds.

3. Magnesium-rich foods:

Magnesium is a mineral that helps regulate sleep and relaxation. Foods rich in magnesium include dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains.

4. Calcium-rich foods:

Calcium plays a role in the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. Good sources of calcium include dairy products, leafy greens, fortified plant-based milk, and certain fish like salmon and sardines.

5. Potassium-rich foods:

Potassium is a mineral that helps relax muscles, which can be beneficial for sleep. Potassium-rich foods include avocados, bananas, sweet potatoes and spinach.

6. Foods with melatonin:

Some foods naturally contain melatonin, which can help regulate the circadian sleep-wake cycle. Studies show dysregulations of this hormone are directly linked to ASD-related sleep problems (1). These include cherries, tomatoes, walnuts, and olives.

7. Vitamin A deficiency can also be responsible lead to sleep disturbance in autistic children. You can add foods rich in Vitamin A, for example, carrots, melons, pumpkin, spinach and many orange-coloured fruits and vegetables have vitamin A. If you are a non-vegetarian, you can include one piece of chicken liver twice a week.

8. Avoid serving large meals, heavy meals, red meat, candies and chocolates which can contain caffeine close to bedtime, as these can disrupt sleep. Instead, serve a light, balanced snack if your child gets hungry before bed. You also need to avoid serving foods rich in sugar. Sugar spikes can lead to sugar lows making them dull and cranky, preventing them from sleeping.

 9. Take vitamins in the morning rather than at night. Since large amounts of vitamins and minerals can keep the body stirring. You can give your child probiotics at night, giving bacteria time to colonize (grow).

10. Unable to get your child to eat foods that contain the nutrients mentioned above. You can consider giving your child the following supplements- Magnesium, Serotonin, melatonin, GABA or inositol.

 In conclusion, sleep dysregulation is caused by genetic factors, environmental factors and behavioural dysregulations. Including these foods and diet recommendations while also following a comfortable bedtime routine can help with sleeping through the night.

Still not able to get your autistic child to sleep through the night?

There could be underlying issues like tummy problems. You can meet your paediatrician to rule out severe conditions and then meet your Dietitian to improve your child’s diet and solve their tummy problems.

To book a session you can contact the admin of 1 special place.


Suhana Shriyan
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