Guest post by Don Lewis of AbilityLabs.com
Are you at your wits end with a child who won't sleep? There are many reasons children with autism may have sleep problems, from allergies to circadian rhythm disorders. These are some of the most common issues contributing to sleep problems in children with autism and how bedroom design can help combat them.
Sleep Disorders and Autism
According to Autism Speaks, more than half of children on the autism spectrum have sleep issues. These sleep problems not only make it harder for the whole family to get rest, but they also contribute to more severe limitations and behavioral challenges in children with autism.
Researchers aren't positive why sleep problems are so pervasive in autism, but good sleep hygiene and a calming sleep environment are considered the first line of defense. Parents should establish a regular sleep schedule and encourage daytime exercise to minimize circadian rhythm disturbances. It's also important to keep the child's bedroom dark, quiet, and relaxing to help promote quality sleep.
In terms of design, maximize daylight with adjustable window treatments like blinds and shades while using blackout drapes to maintain darkness at night. Choose relaxing colors that promote restful sleep. Additionally, opt for carpeting over hard floors for sound-proofing and install a solid-core door.
Asthma, Allergies, and Autism
Allergies and asthma are likewise common in children on the autism spectrum, with respiratory allergies reported in 19 percent of children with autism. Although these issues aren't given much attention when it comes to sleep problems, difficulty breathing could be the reason your child struggles to fall and stay asleep or gets poor-quality rest.
If your child has allergies or asthma, maintaining clean air in your child's bedroom is of utmost importance. Upgrading your standard HVAC air filter to a high-quality filter, as well as changing it regularly, can improve the air quality throughout your home. In your child's bedroom, add an air purifier for additional air filtering power. Quiet air purifiers are available for children who are sensitive to sound.
Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism
Children with sensory processing disorder may be sensitive to touch, sound, light, and other everyday stimuli. These hypersensitivities may prevent a child with autism from falling asleep.
Designing a bedroom that accommodates sensory differences starts with understanding your child's unique sensory needs. If you haven't yet explored your child's sensory issues but have noticed symptoms, discuss the matter with your child's doctor and take note of which stimuli your child responds positively to and which stimuli your child avoids.
For most sensory issues, the advice is the same as above: Limit background noise as much as possible. However, children may find other aspects of their bedroom overstimulating, such as the furniture. To minimize this effect, opt for furniture that serves multiple purposes, such as a box chair that can become an activity table. Creating more space can help reduce or eliminate sensory overload. Additionally, some children with autism prefer weighted blankets or compression sheets for their calming effects, while others find them hot and constricting. There's no one right answer for designing around sensory issues; the important thing is to pay attention to your child's individual needs and design accordingly.
Children's bedrooms typically aren't the main focus of your home's interior design. However, when you have a child with both autism and sleep problems, it's necessary to take a closer look at bedroom design and how it influences your child's rest. With smart design choices that take your child's health and personal needs into account, you can transform a restless bedroom into a peaceful space.
Inspiration for Life with Autism
This blog has a variety of articles about people living life with autism, and topics and ideas that can help in the journey. Guest bloggers are welcome. Inspired by Trevor, a young adult film critic, photographer and college graduate on the autism spectrum.