How to Design A Sleep Environment to Help Your Autistic Child Sleep Soundly


As a parent to an autistic child, you know all too well the difficulty that bedtime can bring, but you aren’t alone. According to research, at least half of all autistic children have problems falling and staying asleep, and often wake up more frequently. This lack of sleep translates into intensified autism symptoms such as excitement, repetitive behavior, and communication issues. The constant waking in the night can have an effect on you and other members of your household too. So, how can you design a bedroom for your child to help them have a more positive bedtime experience?

Be Picky with Bedding

Many children with autism find certain textures or accessories (zippers, buttons, snaps) distracting and uncomfortable, so bedding needs to be chosen carefully. Take cues from your child and examine their favorite clothing, as this is what they find most comfortable and therefore should be incorporated into their bedding. Perhaps your child prefers smooth cotton sheets or something a little fuzzier such as flannel. Make sure their pajamas match their comfort preferences, as well as some fabrics, are itchy and hot, and zippers/buttons can make sleep uncomfortable. Consider incorporating additional bed accessories such as comfort items or even a weighted blanket. A weighted blanket can offer several bedtime benefits for your child, as the extra pressure and compression can calm the nervous system, making it easier to fall asleep.

 Get Rid of All Distractions

 Distractions are an everyday occurrence for autistic children, but they can wreak havoc on bedtime. It is best to minimize bedroom distractions including light and noise. Face the bed away from the door to avoid light creeping in from under the door, or place a rolled up towel on the floor to block the light. As for windows, blackout curtains are helpful, especially if light streams in the window. This can also be beneficial when the time changes to avoid disrupting the sleep-wake cycle. Noise can also be an issue, so find ways to block it out such as headphones, relaxing music or a sound machine. 

One distraction you might not think of is the air in the room. Not only should you adjust the thermostat based on your child’s preferences, but you should also consider hidden culprits in the air that could keep your child awake sniffling and sneezing, particularly if anyone in the home is a smoker. Keep allergens and smoke particles out of the air with an air purifier that contains a True HEPA filter and a carbon filter, but make sure it’s quiet.

 Reduce Clutter with Storage

 Your child’s room might be their favorite place to play, but heaps of toys in the corner and various knickknacks can cause sensory overload. Use storage cubes or under-bed storage bins to keep the room neat and organized, and consider setting up a toy room/corner in another area of the home. Remove any décor or items that are unnecessary including posters and wall art/photos. Your child might find it helpful if you remove everything but the necessities, leaving them with just a bed, dresser, nightstand and desk. Make sure you have removed color clutter as well by sticking with neutral and relaxing color palettes such as greens, blues, and pastels.

Incorporate Relaxing Activities

 In addition to adjusting the bedroom itself, it’s important that you incorporate relaxing activities to help your child wind down. Perhaps you could play some soft music, read a book together, or participate in a breathing exercise. Find what works and roll with it, but be sure to stick with a routine. Keep the routine simple with pre-bedtime tasks such as take a bath, put on pajamas, brush teeth, listen to music and go to sleep. If your child has trouble understanding, use visual supports to communicate with your child and help them communicate with you. These visuals can also be helpful to reduce anxiety about what is happening, as the cues will show your child exactly what to expect and what comes next.

 If bedtime is difficult, it’s time to revamp your child’s bedroom to ensure it is conducive to a happy, healthy sleep environment. To appeal to your child’s unique sensory processing issues, switch up the bedding, minimize distractions, declutter and create a relaxing bedtime routine. Adjust and readjust until you find that sleep sweet spot.

Joyce Wilson

How to Stop Getting Into Bedtime Battles With Toddlers

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With toddlers, it sometimes feels like every step of the day is a battle. And bedtime can feel like the most difficult time of the day, especially when you're tired and ready to wind down. But understanding why toddlers struggle with sleep and how to manage their struggles can help your toddler (and you) sleep well at night.

Why Toddlers Fight Sleep

Sleep is awesome, and most adults, especially moms, would do practically anything to get more sleep. So why do some toddlers resist sleep?

Toddlers develop rapidly every day. They spend their days learning and growing, and their desire for exploration doesn't stop when it's time to go to sleep. Even if they feel tired, they still have a desire to see, think, and do, and sleep is an obstacle to doing that.

In the toddler stage, children learn more about fear. They know they may feel scared when you leave the room or turn off their light, but they may not know how to express it. Instead, they may respond by whining, screaming, or making endless requests for water, snacks, books, or songs.

The reasons toddlers struggle with sleep are practically endless. Getting too excited with nighttime play, teething, not enough stimulation during the day, overstimulation, even screen time or food choices can have a negative impact on sleep.

How to Help Toddlers With Healthy Sleep

Toddler sleep can be complicated, but the solutions can be simple. Follow these tips to help support your child's healthy sleep habits and put an end to sleep battles at bedtime.

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  • Set limits and follow a schedule. Children thrive on predictability. When you follow a regular schedule throughout the day and especially at night, they know what to expect, what's coming next, and the comfort of going through the same thing each night and day. Limits may feel restrictive at first, but maintaining clearly defined limits demonstrates to toddlers that you won't let them push boundaries -- and they'll be less likely to keep pushing them if you don't give in.

  • Make bedtime relaxing. If you've been burned by bedtime battles before, you may approach bedtime with a nervous attitude. Toddlers can smell fear; don't let them get to you. Be confident and positive, and offer relaxing activities before bed, including a warm bath, snuggles, storytime, songs, and talking about your day or the day ahead. Some children enjoy a nighttime massage or having their head rubbed.

  • Create a comfortable sleep environment. Just as you need a comfortable place to sleep, toddlers need a healthy sleep environment, too. Make sure they feel safe, secure, and relaxed in their bedroom. Consider their mattress and whether it's appropriate for their needs. It may be time to move up to a larger size, or you may need to choose a different mattress for comfort.

  • Give them attention. Sometimes, life gets hectic and we miss out on quality one on one time during the day -- and toddlers may try to make up that time at night. Make sure you get time together before bed, and if they want to talk, listen. Plan ahead and start bedtime earlier if necessary so you'll have enough time to visit and go through their bedtime routine.

  • Listen to their fears. Bedtime can be scary for toddlers, who may now realize that a dark room with shadows and sometimes unfamiliar noises can be unsettling. When toddlers fight going to sleep or whine about things they need, they may be scared but unable to find the words to explain their fear. Talk to them about it and consider creative solutions like monster spray (water in a spray bottle with a label on it).

Toddler sleep struggles can be frustrating, but with support, you can help your toddler sleep better and avoid bedtime battles. Approach bedtime with patience, confidence, and clear limits, setting expectations and following a consistent routine and schedule so toddlers know what to expect and will be less likely to push boundaries.

Sara Westgreen is a researcher for the sleep science hub She sleeps on a king size bed in Texas, where she defends her territory against cats all night. A mother of three, she enjoys beer, board games, and getting as much sleep as she can get her hands on.

Self-Love or Selfish

After leaving my very toxic relationship, I had to get to the real important stuff. ME!  What made me happy & laugh, and what didn’t! The more I did the RIGHT things, the stronger I got and it was contagious. Like the color was returning to my cheeks. Daily I was praying for healthy relationships in my life. Mostly others are the same path. Was there a community for me? I felt labeled as jaded (even if I wasn’t) because of my situations and longed for acceptance. I knew I had to let go of toxic people, but my life was surrounded by ONLY them and what friends would I have left.

For years, I was told I was worthless and after leaving now I was being called selfish. I recall fighting over whose work schedule was more important, and I was responsible for all things having to do with a sitter. Not to mention the “timed” visits with our daughter.

As I started to use my legs again and voice, I most certainly received the backlash and guilt tripping for wanting to build a life of my own again.

But I drew that line in the sand years ago and turned to Personal Development again. With each book the repeating expression of “Filling Ones Cup” came to a head. What did this mean? The unfortunate part about this is society (and my ex) is that we could be fooled into thinking that taking care of yourself first is selfish. Well I call Bull S*it on this one!

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The female has somehow programmed herself to put everyone before them. In my quest, not only did I discover the importance of putting yourself first is vital, its more beneficial for all she may love. I had found my community with a group of people that were making themselves a priority and I was ALL in. I will share the first things I learned during my soul searching.

7 easy ways to demonstrate Self-Love

1.      Fuel your body – Goodness when I was on the downward spiral, so was my eating & nutrition. Bad choices and bad FOOD were habits. That’s if I wasn’t starving myself. The first step to self-love is to fuel your body to WORK for you. And not against you. The better I eat, the better I feel & younger.

2.      Exercise for Life – This was a love/hate for me at first. Who really loves to work out anyway? But when I found this community and begin to exercise, they made me feel at home, they helped me stay accountable, and they introduced me (single hot-mess mom) to a program that I can do in my HOME. Of course, I loved them instantly, then I appreciated the convenience of it all, and I fell in LOVE with the results both internal and external. When you exercise you feel better and gain confidence. Period. Its self-love at its best performance!

3.      Meditate & Relaxation – Our mind is always is overload. Daily mediation if only 10 minutes a day; can make a huge impact on the longevity of yourself. Simple mediation will allow you to minimize worries & anxiety. Another step to self-love.

4.      Spend time with friends – Favorite. When is the last time you said yes to dinner & drinks? This one is a must. We never battle alone. Sharing daily struggles with friend will certainly help you sort out & solve some at home issues. A wonderful example of self-love.

5.      Treat yourself – It doesn’t have to be expensive, but if a fun-loving coffee mug speaks to you, then buy it, and do NOT feel bad. You don’t need a reason, permission, or the extra cash. Buy yourself something from time to time.

6.      Daily Affirmations – These gorgeous words are small and complimentary to YOU. But the impact is BIGGER than life for turning our attitude around. We can reprogram one-self and thought patters by saying, writing, and repeating personal affirmations over in our mirrors each day. Stare straight into your eyes, and remind yourself how important you are to YOU. Trust and believe in you and tell yourself how much YOU love yourself.

7.      Bless, Release & Forgive – At times we feel that those who have hurt us should suffer. However, I have discovered forgiving, has nothing to do with them, and everything to do with us. Holding onto hate, will only road block our dreams, goals, or growth for our future endeavors. Learn to forgive freely. Give yourself permission to let go. What is done is done. Lead with love and grow because of this.

This process has been extremely beneficial for my transformations. I have managed to lose over 62lbs. and 20 inches. I have rid all the toxic & negative relationships in my life. I have learned so much about me and that self-love has been a huge part of my single-mom journey. I follow these actions daily to improve my mental and physical health. I strongly encourage you to do the same and if you would like more information, please message me at the following.

~Tina Derbish