Sleeping Challenges and Autism Go Hand in Hand

Ava fast asleep at the Disneyland Hotel - 2011.

Ava fast asleep at the Disneyland Hotel – 2011.

Does your child with autism have trouble sleeping? Both of mine certainly do. Even though my youngest child’s autism symptoms are all subclinical, she still has trouble sleeping most nights. If you’re singing the same tune, then it may make you feel a bit better to know that we are not alone.

According to Australia’s Learning Discoveries Psychological Services, “Researchers estimate that sleep disorders affect between 40% to 80% of children with ASD. The most common problems are difficulty falling asleep and waking frequently. One longitudinal study has shown that sleep deprivation had a drastic impact on social functioning and behaviour.”

I know that my children are happier after a good night’s sleep. Heck, a rough night of sleep often leaves me grouchy and less productive the next day and I am not on the autism spectrum. The sleep deprivation and decreased functioning relationship is logical, with or without autism. But, in my opinion, it is more of an issue in the autism population because of the increased prevalence of sleep disorders as well as the underlying autism symptoms that directly impact functioning and behavior.

So what’s a mom to do? Over the years we’ve tried to address the sleeping issue using several tools including weighted blankets, consistent nighttime routines, essential oils, melatonin and even prescription medication. Some of these solutions worked better than others, and of course what worked great for one kid had no impact on the other.

How do you address sleep challenges in your child with autism?

About Melissa

Melissa is the mother of two children on the autism spectrum and strives to provide information about all aspects of autism through her blog, The Autism Education Site. Follow Melissa on Twitter. Like me on Facebook.

© Melissa Hincha-Ownby and The Autism Education Site, 2008-2014.


  1. Hi Melissa,

    I was curious if Ava had any issues with diet? And if so, what are your recommendations?

    • Hi Leanne, Ava just had an egg allergy (mostly outgrown) and from time-to-time has issues when she eats too much dairy (she loves yogurt). My son seems to be more sensitive to diet – we used the Feingold Diet plan with him for years when he was younger and saw great success behaviorally.