Bedtime Tips

The late Lorna Jean King, founder of the Children’s Center for Neurodevelopmental Studies in Phoenix, Arizona, offers the following insights on sleep habits among children with autism as posted on

Children with autism usually have some sleep pattern problems. Some “go till they drop,” then sleep very soundly all night and are difficult to get started in the morning. Others have great difficulty getting to sleep and may wake often, or be very restless, winding themselves up in the covers or even ending up on the floor.

The child who gets a restful night of sleep will be less hyper-irritable in the morning. The “go till you drop” child will be easier to awaken in the morning and is likely to be in a better mood if he can get to bed and to sleep before the stage of complete exhaustion.

No single suggestion will work for all children, but here are some strategies that have proven effective in many cases. For more information visit

  • Eliminate television (and computers) for one to two hours before bedtime, as the programs children like are often over-stimulating.
  • Rough or rowdy play should be eliminated for one to two hours before bedtime.
  • Quiet activities such as drawing, looking at books, or playing with puzzles or construction sets are more suitable activities for a period before bed.
  • If a bath or shower is an evening activity, follow with five minutes of a towel “rub-down,” being sure to use downward strokes in the direction the hair grows.
  • After the child is in bed, a back-rub may also be soothing. Again, be sure to start with the neck and go down to the base of the spine.
  • Using a soft musical background may help some children relax and drift off to sleep. It is important to choose the music carefully.
  • Reading to the child once he is in bed may be calming. Reading poetry with strong rhythm and rhyme is usually more effective than stories.

Remember, the child on the autism spectrum uses tremendous amounts of energy and needs more sleep than the quiet child.



Stock photo by Deyan Georgiev,

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