Autism: Signs in your sleep for adults and children – how to resolve sleep difficulties

Christine McGuinness on hereditary autism in her family

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As autism is a spectrum, everybody with autism is different. One in 100 people are on the autism spectrum and there are around 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK, according to The National Autistic Society.

The charity says that a lot of autistic people are likely to suffer from “disturbed sleep patterns” at some point in their lives.

There are several different possible reasons for this, and also a number of things that may help.

Reasons for this could include irregular secretion of the sleep hormone melatonin, which regulates sleep patterns, or having atypical circadian rhythms.

It may also be because of sensory differences, such as sensitivity to certain sounds or white noise.

Some people may also experience hypersomnia, which means sleeping too much.

The National Autistic Society says this increased exhaustion may be caused “by the additional stress autistic people experience in social situations”.

The charity has also outlined a number of steps which may help, if you are experiencing some of these sleep difficulties.

It says you should aim to create a bedtime routine that you can follow in different settings, for example if you are on holiday or staying with family and friends.

Keeping a sleep diary is also advised. You can highlight any unusual patterns of sleep and identify factors which may be influencing your ability to sleep.

The charity adds: “You might find certain sensory aspects of your bedroom distracting, making it harder to relax and go to sleep, as well as stay asleep.”

You should remove distractions, such as electronic devices near the bed.

You may also need to limit caffeine and other stimulants, especially near bedtime.

If you or your child have signs of autism, the NHS says you can speak to your GP and any other health professional you or your child see, such as another doctor or therapist.

The NHS suggests you write a list of the signs of autism you think you or your child have and bring it with you.

The healthy body adds that it is not always easy to get an autism assessment, and “waiting times can also be very long”.

If you are finding it hard to get an assessment, you could ask for a second opinion, and it may help to speak to other people who have been in a similar situation, adds the NHS.

The NHS says other common signs of autism in adults include getting very anxious about social situations or finding it hard to say how you feel.

Autistic adults may also have the same routine every day and get quite anxious if it changes.

Children with autism may not respond to their name or get very upset if they do not like a certain taste, smell or sound.

Other signs include “repetitive movements, such as flapping their hands, flicking their fingers or rocking their body,” according to the NHS.

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