SLEEP, we all need it, and almost every person loves it. How does autism effect sleep? For all of you parents out there you remember the first couple months of having a baby. Waking up over and over again in the middle of the night because your baby needed you. Needed you to eat, to change a diaper or just to feel comforted. As those days turn into weeks of sleep deprivation, I remember being short tempered, easily frustrated, forgetful, just plain old exhausted.

Many kids with autism also have issues with sleep. My son Hayden didn’t grow out of the baby sleep issues, instead they got worse. From the ages of 1-3 years old it was a ‘normal night’ to be up with him multiple times, sometime for as long as 2 hours at a time. His little body would go stiff with gut pain, he’d want me to hold him or press on his belly and after the minutes slowly ticked by into hours of tears he would pass gas and then collapse exhausted into bed.

After making diet adjustments we were able to resolve the gut pain issue. However his sleep still wasn’t good. All of us feel so good after a great nights sleep, awake, alert and ready to take on the world. Can you imagine having only one or two of those nights each month? It would be tough for anyone to catch up in their learning and to pick up on social cues, all the more for kids with autism.

Up to the age of 5 that is how Hayden, his parents and family lived. I’m so thankful for a loving committed wife that would take turns getting up with Hayden so that each of us would get an OK nights sleep (while the other parent got somewhere between 4-5 hours). In the middle of the night Hayden would be fully awake, giggling uncontrollably, wanting to wrestle, watch TV, play with toys and having enough energy to climb the walls for hours at a time.

One of the tricks we learned was that Hayden sleeps better with some kind of pressure. He would fall asleep with a parent hugging and squeezing his little body but wouldn’t stay asleep. That’s the reason we found PUPPY. PUPPY is a HUGE stuffed animal we found at Sam’s Club, about 4 foot long and weighs about 18 pounds. On Christmas morning when Hayden got PUPPY he loved and Melissa and I are grateful for PUPPY too! When Hayden falls asleep we slip out of the sheets and place PUPPY over/around him and most nights he now sleeps from 9pm to 6:30am.

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