Sleeping Difficulties and autistic children

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12 Feb 2019, 3:47 am

Poor Sleep Plagues Many Kids With Autism

Young children with autism are more than twice as likely to have sleep problems than typical kids or those with other developmental delays, a new study reports.

Several factors profoundly affect the sleep of 2- to 5-year-olds with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), said lead researcher Dr. Ann Reynolds. They are more likely to resist their bedtime, have trouble getting to sleep, suffer from anxiety regarding sleep, wake up in the middle of the night, and experience night terrors.

"It was very clear that kids with features of autism have more sleep issues," said Reynolds, an associate professor of developmental pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora. "For almost all categories, there was a difference between ASD kids and the general population."

It was already known that kids with autism struggle with sleep. Studies have consistently found that more than half of them and possibly as many as 4 in 5 have at least one chronic sleep problem, according to Autism Speaks.

Reynolds and her team decided to delve deeper into the issue, to see which sleep problems appeared to be more affected by the symptoms of autism. They also wanted to compare kids with ASD to average children and to those who have other disorders that cause developmental delay.

Researchers recruited almost 2,000 children between the ages of 2 and 5 across the United States. They included 522 kids diagnosed with ASD; 228 with developmental delay that included aspects of autism; 534 with developmental delay unrelated to autism; and 703 typical children.

Parents completed a sleep habits questionnaire for all the children. Researchers tallied up the scores, and then compared how well the four groups fared at bedtime.

They found that kids with ASD were more than twice as likely to have serious problems getting quality sleep as kids without autism symptoms.

Kids with autism were also 45 percent more likely to have moderate sleep problems than children with other forms of developmental delay, and 75 percent more likely than typical kids.

Children with symptoms of autism scored worse on nearly all aspects of sleep. Only in a couple of areas -- sleep apnea and daytime sleepiness -- did they appear to have about the same level of difficulty as other kids, Reynolds said.

Autism itself can play havoc with sleep hygiene. Kids with autism can have problems transitioning from one activity to another, or may become so ramped up that they can't calm down, she said.

"Sleep is a big transition," Reynolds said. "You're moving from playing or reading or whatever you're doing to falling asleep."

Kids with ASD are more likely to have anxiety or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which can also affect sleep, Reynolds said.

Also, those with autism might have problems with their sleep/wake cycle, suffer from seizures that disturb sleep, or have lower levels of the sleep hormone melatonin, according to Autism Speaks.

The new study appears in the March issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Judging by the timestamps and location of Wrong Planet posts it is not only a young children issue.

Identified and joined WP August 26, 2013
DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity


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12 Feb 2019, 5:41 am

I have ADHD as well as AS, so I had trouble getting to sleep at night as a kid. I slept OK when I was a toddler, but when I got to about 4 or 5 I started having issues with bedtime. It wasn't until I was about 11 that I started to sleep better, or maybe it was because I was older and knew bedtime meant sleep and so trained myself to switch off.

When I was aged between 4 and 6, it was rather difficult getting to sleep. My mum would read me a bedtime story, then after that I would start playing with toys on my bed. Some nights I was really hyper and would jump on my bed or shout for attention, or throw things across the room so that it'd make a loud bang and my mum or dad would come up to see what was going on. When I got to about 7 I wasn't that naughty, I just used to play very quietly until I finally fell asleep.

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12 Feb 2019, 5:50 am

ASPartOfMe wrote:
Judging by the timestamps and location of Wrong Planet posts it is not only a young children issue.

Sure it isn't!
My mother recalls she once woke in the middle of the night. Everybody was asleep except for the toddler me - I was lying in my bed, telling fairy tales to myself.
I spent a sleepless month making my Aspie 4yo learn to sleep without her dummy (she had quite severe orthodontic problems, it must have been done). The cost of it... you may guess :/
Now I take off-label seroquel to regulate my sleep cycle.

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Giving up my attempts to become a proper human.


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12 Feb 2019, 6:16 pm

I experience sleeping issues when I'm stressed or if I have a spell of depression and anxiety. Family issues can also cause them like they did for me three years ago, around this time.


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12 Feb 2019, 6:20 pm

I often have nightmares and I wake up at midnight and 2 am and 3 am and in the morning it is hard to wake up and get out of the house but I do it because I have to.

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12 Feb 2019, 8:23 pm

Already had seriously bad sleep hygiene at age 8.
More like I had chosen to stay up all night to do things whatever I want, than the unwillingness of insomnia or worrying about sleeping. In turn, I sleep at day during the class, and still passes.
Of course this stops during/after college.

Nowadays my sleep problems isn't from sleep hygiene or even autism at all.

Other factors led me to grow up a dislike for the need for sleeping.
It's mostly chronic rhinitis/sinusitis, whereas it's been bothering me for most of my waking life, let alone lying down to go to sleep, while asleep, and waking up at any times and still seemingly barely rested or worse.

Never had sleep terrors. Nightmares are very rare if not it doesn't seem to affect me or recall it. It's not like dreams are rare to me either.
Stress isn't very consistent with sleep quality either. I could have an entire day to myself, and still feel more tired when waking up from any sleep.

My 'patterns' are inconsistent, my sleep quality is also very inconsistent. So are how fast I fall asleep, how well I wake up, how deep I sleep, etc. Thus how well I function.
It's mostly due to humidity and the sleeping position I end up with -- both currently uncontrollable. Consequently, hormones and what happens during the day.
It just mostly traces back to chronic sinusitis/rhinitis than autism related. Autism related is mostly reactions (crappy EF, badly integrated senses, etc..) than causes (sensory interferences, energy draining intolerances, etc..).

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13 Feb 2019, 2:34 am

I wasn't truant in my younger years for nothing! I've always been a night owl and terrible at rising in the morning. I'd miss all of Sat. Cartoons and would be shaking my mother awake because she fell asleep reading me a book at night. I was diagnosed with Delayed Sleep Syndrome and took sleeping pills for a long while.

High school was a bit easier as it started later, but if I got stressed I stopped being able to get up again.

Adult life has introduced some bouts of insomnia. I'll be tired but just can't sleep, unlike as a kid I was plain not tired at night. I've also had some sleep paralysis and screaming nightmares. Fun stuff o.O

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