Why Isn't My Child Sleeping & What Can I Do? A Primer for Parents of Children with Autism

By Accardo, Jennifer | The Exceptional Parent, April 2013 | Go to article overview

Why Isn't My Child Sleeping & What Can I Do? A Primer for Parents of Children with Autism


Accardo, Jennifer, The Exceptional Parent


Sleep problems challenge children with autism and their families. Here's a primer on some of the testing, treatments, and resources that can help with sleep.

Sleep problems are common in human beings! Sleep problems affect many children, but children with autism spectrum disorders can have sleep problems that are more severe, and more persistent, than typically developing peers. Children's sleep problems can keep parents from sleeping, too. When a child's sleep problems affect daytime behaviors and learning, or disrupt family life, it may be time to seek help.

HOW CAN WE FIGURE IT OUT?

The most basic approach to figuring out what's wrong with a child's sleep is a clinic visit, involving a history and physical examination. A sleep-oriented history asks questions about sleep habits and schedules, snoring and breathing during sleep, restlessness, sleepwalking and night terrors, daytime sleepiness, conditions like epilepsy and anxiety, and family history of sleep disorders. Questions about electronics use may be especially important for children with autism in the age of the iPad, since illuminated screens can affect sleep.

There are a few more levels of sleep evaluations, though. Parents may be asked to complete questionnaires to point towards specific sleep symptoms or disorders. For instance, the commonly used Children's Sleep Habits Questionnaire screens for categories including sleep anxiety and daytime sleepiness. Families may be given sleep logs or diaries to complete. These record sleep over time, including bedtime, wake time, and naps, and are most helpful when filled out each day for at least a week. They can help families and professionals see patterns in sleep schedules.

Some children may stay up so late that parents don't know when they actually fall asleep. Alternately, parents may suspect that children are waking during the night (toys taken out, food wrappers in the bedroom), but are not sure how often or for how long. Actigraphy monitoring is another way to document children's sleep. Actigraphy watches look like sports watches and are usually worn on the wrist. They record movement, and that recording can be downloaded. The idea is that the more you're moving, the more likely that you're awake; the less you're moving, the more likely you're asleep. Because there are exceptions (child mesmerized by a favorite DVD sitting very still), parents are usually asked to keep a sleep diary along with actigraphy. Actigraphy is more likely to be available through a specialty sleep clinic.

Many families wonder about overnight sleep studies. An overnight sleep study for a child (also called a polysomnogram, or PSG) is a test done in a specialized laboratory. Your child, accompanied by a parent, comes in for an overnight test as an outpatient. A trained technician sets up monitoring to record different aspects of your child's sleep: breathing, oxygen levels, brainwaves, and leg and eye movements. Your child wears this monitoring throughout the night as information is recorded. Setup of this monitoring requires some cooperation and can be a sensory challenge for children with autism.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Recent guidelines published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine show that pediatric sleep studies are indicated to look closely at sleep-related breathing disorders. They can be used to look for other sleep issues, such as leg movements, that suggest specific sleep disorders. With full EEG, they can also be used to distinguish sleep conditions such as sleepwalking or night terrors from seizures.

Some sleep laboratories, like the laboratory at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, are specifically pediatric; others primarily see adult patients and do occasional pediatric tests. If your child is scheduled for this test, it can help to tour the laboratory ahead of time. You may want to ask how often a laboratory tests children, or specifically children with developmental disabilities. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Why Isn't My Child Sleeping & What Can I Do? A Primer for Parents of Children with Autism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.