Who Else Wants A Good Night’s Sleep?

Sometimes we need some fresh sleep tips.

autism aspergers sleep tips

A few years ago, I had some serious difficulties falling asleep.

It got worse and worse.

I would expect not being able to go to sleep. Then I would not be able to fall asleep. Then I would get angry at myself and the world for not being able to sleep. Because I knew I had to get up early the next morning.

Fortunately, I sleep a lot better now. But it was a literal “nightmare” when I was struggling with that insomnia!

autism aspergers sleep tips


Statistics About Insomnia

Here are some general statistics about insomnia from Better Sleep Better Life.

  • People today sleep 20% less than they did 100 years ago.
  • More than 30% of the population suffers from insomnia.
  • One in three people suffer from some form of insomnia during their lifetime.
  • More than half of Americans lose sleep due to stress and/or anxiety.
  • Between 40% and 60% of people over the age of 60 suffer from insomnia.
  • Women are up to twice as likely to suffer from insomnia than men.
  • Approximately 35% of insomniacs have a family history of insomnia.
  • 90% of people who suffer from depression also experience insomnia.
  • Approximately 10 million people in the U.S. use prescription sleep aids.
  • People who suffer from sleep deprivation are 27% more likely to become overweight or obese. There is also a link between weight gain and sleep apnea.
  • A National Sleep Foundation Poll shows that 60% of people have driven while feeling sleepy (and 37% admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel) in the past year.

Insomnia, Sleep Difficulties, and the Autism Spectrum

And it seems as though people on the autism spectrum are susceptible to sleep problems.

Science News Daily highlighted a 2007 study conducted in Italy. The researchers found that children on the autism spectrum, as compared to a control group of neurotypical children, have a high prevalence of some sleep disorders and mainly problems related to initiating sleep and sleep restlessness.

Here were some of the results:

According to the results, 50 percent of the children with AS were reluctant to go to bed, while 75 percent felt a need for light or a television in the bedroom, 87 percent had difficulty getting to sleep at night and 75 percent fell asleep sweating. In addition, 50 percent felt unrefreshed when waking up in the morning, 87 percent had difficulty waking up in the morning and 87 percent felt sleepy during the day.

Autism Aspergers Sleeping Tips

Given that:

a) a lot of people around the world suffer from insomnia, and b) people on the autism spectrum are more likely than many to suffer from insomnia and interrupted sleep,

it’s worth examining some common sleep tips.

  • Talk to your primary care physician. Sometimes depression, anxiety, or a number of medical issues can cause insomnia and lack of sleep.
  • Make sure you are getting a good amount of physical exercise. It sounds so basic, yet so many of us neglect our daily recommended quota of 30 minutes of exercise. Exercise is a great way to get stress out of the body in a healthy way.
  • Follow a consistent bedtime routine. I read a great suggestion. Set an alarm for literally one hour before you plan to go to sleep. Use that hour before bed to brush your teeth, to journal, to read, to turn off any screens (TV, computer, video games).
  • Don’t go to bed until you’re sleepy. I read this suggestion in a couple of places, including at Steve Pavlina’s blog, Personal Development for Smart People.
  • Avoid drinking foods or drinks with too much sugar or caffeine. Also avoid any beer, wine, or alcohol 6 hours before bed. And keep away from cigarettes or any kind of nicotine 6 hours before bed.
  • If you have a child with autism/Asperger’s, I would recommend obtaining a couple of resources I have recommended to my own clients.
  • If you are an adult on the autism spectrum, here is an audio resource I recommend. Robert Smith, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker trained in medical hypnotherapy. He used his extensive experience to put together a program called Sleep Easily. I’ve used it, and it works!
  • Set your biological clock by getting up at the same time every morning, even on weekends, if possible.
  • Use your bed for sleep only. This is a tough tip for me, because I love to read in my bed before falling asleep. From a behavioral standpoint, the idea is that your body will learn to associate bed with sleep if that’s all you’re doing when in bed.
  • Make your bedroom quiet, dark, and somewhat cool.
  • If you’re worried or anxious, consider these free cognitive therapy worksheets to help you problem solve. Do so away from your bedroom, so that your subconscious does not associate your bed with worry.
  • You may want to consider purchasing melatonin to aid you with getting your sleep cycle in sync. But only do so after you have spoken with your physician about it. Melatonin is not sleep medication. And if you do use sleep medication, it should only be for a time, and under the care of your medical doctor.
I’m Sleeping Better Now
In my case, I used the audio program I referenced above (Sleep Easily). I also took up running, and found that it effectively reduced my level of stress built up during the day. I still take melatonin, which helps regulate my sleep and wake cycles.
And it’s made all the difference!

Research Articles

Children With Asperger Syndrome More Likely To Have Sleep Problems

Sleep Disturbances Associated With Behavior Problems in Children With Autism

Melatonin Is An Effective Treatment For Sleep Problems In Children With Autism, Study Suggests

photo credit: kainkalju
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I’d love to hear about your experiences, thoughts, and solutions. Please share below!
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I'm Steve Borgman. I'm a licensed clinical professional counselor and blogger committed to bringing you hope, understanding, and solutions that you can apply to your life immediately.

Are you tired of feeling alone, like you're the only one in this world? Please join the Thrive with Aspergers Community to connect with others just like you!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • michaellyster884

    Nice informative post on the most common problem of insomnia. Suffering from sleeping problems and just want a good night sleep? Grab your copy of how to beat insomnia here; http://insomnianaturalsleep.com/insomnia-treatment-and-ways-to-fall-asleep/

  • dawnmusepotter

    I found with my son that a nightly routine of: Bath, Massage then Bed worked wonders! Not only was it a predictable routine for him, the massage itself helped to decrease the excess cortisol he was creating from an overworked amygdala (University of Washington (2009,
    March 24),
    Heightened Level Of Amygdala Activity May Cause Social Deficits in Autism, ScienceDaily, Retrieved) Shows clearly that the amygdala in autistic people is often overstimulated.

  • dawnmusepotter Very interesting. Great job on finding what worked for your son! I’m curious as to whether you have ever used a weighted blanket for him as well?