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The brain

Autism and sleeping issues

Sleeping problems are common with autism (80% of young people with ASD have problems falling asleep.

As I have sleep problems myself and live most days whilst being tired, I think it is not wired it is so common that people with ASD have trouble with it.

The reason sleeping issues are common with people with ASD might have to do with all the inputs we get (we see everything, we hear everything,…). Processing all this information takes energy, a lot more then it takes for Neurotypicals.

Spinning down the brain

If you would ask people on the spectrum that have sleeping problems, most of them will say it is difficult to fall asleep because they are thinking of things. Like the brain is still going at top speed, when all they are doing is just being in bed.

It might be even worse when for example you come home from a party (when your brain is still processing what has happened). This might be because the hyper sensitivity. As we get more input, and thus need to process more.

Autism deep sleep

Studies have shown that people with autism spend about 15% of their sleep in REM sleep. In contrast, Neurotypical people spend about 25% in REM sleep. The rem sleep is important because that is where memories are retained

Consequences

This lack of sleep has consequences. It can exacerbate autism features, make social interaction more difficult. Repetitive behavior can also be more when there are sleeping issues present.

Linked issues

A lot of people with ASD that have sleeping issues also have hyperactivity disorders (like ADHD) and anxieties. Those are also known to distrupt sleep.

Things that can help

One of the things that can help is to create a good bed routine. This means going to bed at the same time each day, and doing the same things before going to bed. This way the brain knows that it is going to bed, and it can spin down, resulting in better sleep.

Better sleep is not going to cure autism, but it does make living with it a lot more comfortable. As around 50% of people on the spectrum have sleeping problems, it is a problem for a lot of the people with ASD.


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