Aspergers and Sleep

First of all, I would like to wish my readers a Happy Easter weekend full of happiness.

Now it’s time to move on to my main blog post. I was thinking through what to write about on this blog when I realised that I had not yet covered the issue of sleeping patterns. Poor sleeping patterns are extremely common in people across all levels of the autistic spectrum. Personally my sleeping pattern is rather erratic-I go through phases where I don’t sleep well at all alternated with phases where I sleep solidly for up to twelve hours. I also take a lot of daytime naps which I am trying to cut down on as I know they are part of the issue as I then don’t feel tired at night time.  A lot of the time, how well I sleep depends on two factors. The first is how stressed or anxious I am at the time. Like pretty much everyone, autistic or not, anxiety and stress prevents me from sleeping properly. Thoughts continually run through my head over and over again and, no matter how tired I am, I can’t relax enough to fall asleep. There are nights where I get so frustrated because I am so exhausted but my mind still won’t let me sleep. The second factor is how much of a good read my current book at the time is. I always, without fail, read something on my Kindle before settling to sleep. Like most people with Aspergers, when I get absorbed in something, hours can pass and I won’t notice because I’ll still be fixated on what I am doing. I have, on numerous occasions, read entire 300 to 400 page books in one night because the storyline is so gripping or the memoirs are so heartbreaking that I just have to see how they finish. By the time I have finished the book, it is 3 am and I am wondering where all the hours have gone!

People have suggested sleeping tablets to me in the past. However I am against sleeping tablets personally, only because I have a fear of falling into such a deep sleep that I will sleep through my alarm and be late for work. Also I personally don’t want to become reliant on them although I accept that, for a lot of people, they are fantastic. There are lots of other suggestions for improving the quality of sleep-unfortunately most of them are stuff that I find difficult to do. I have a TV in my bedroom that I watch late at night if there is a programme on which interests me and I sleep with my mobile phone on the pillow next to me which I know experts say prevents people from getting good quality sleep. I know that I shouldn’t sleep so close to my phone but it links in to my fear of sleeping through an alarm and being late for work. I personally find that, if my phone is right next to me, the alarm is so loud that I can’t miss it. The only issue is that I am a fidgety sleeper and my phone usually ends up somewhere in the bed so I wake up in the middle of the night and have to frantically search for it before I can settle back to sleep. I tend to avoid drinking late at night as I know that, if I wake up to go to the bathroom, I will be awake for a couple of hours afterwards whereas other people would be able to settle straight back to sleep. If I am really struggling to get off to sleep, I put on a Youtube video of relaxing music which lasts for three hours! That usually sends me to sleep within half an hour but I have fallen asleep listening to it and woken up while it was still playing before. Also I would recommend plugging in your phone if you use something similar to get you to sleep as it is a real drain on the battery. I know that I should invest in a CD player and CDs of relaxing music-perhaps that is a present idea I could give my relatives for my birthday and Christmas as I always get told that I am hard to buy for!

I know that a lot of people on the spectrum who have erratic sleeping patterns are prescribed melatonin to aid sleep. I have never tried this as I feel that, although my sleeping pattern is erratic, it’s not erratic enough to qualify for such measures. I have also read that milk is a good aid to sleep. Unfortunately for me, I don’t drink milk on its own as I don’t like the after taste it leaves in my mouth and I’m guessing that adding flavoured powder to make it a milkshake would be counter productive because of the sugar content. I do sleep better when I’m staying at my mum’s house than I do in my workplace accommodation. Perhaps that’s because I worry less about work when I am at my mum’s. I don’t sleep well in unfamiliar beds at all, even if they are really comfortable hotel beds-just knowing that I’m not in my own bed is enough to stop me sleeping well.

For people who struggle with sleep, I think the above suggestions work well if you can stick to them-my problem is sticking to them. I think it is extremely important for everyone to get good quality sleep but, when people on the spectrum struggle to sleep, it magnifies our other problems as we are more likely to be unable to tolerate sensory stimuli or tolerate social interaction if we are exhausted. Sorting sleeping problems is never quick and easy but, hopefully, in time, we can all get a good night’s sleep!



9 Responses to Aspergers and Sleep

  1. Joseyjo says:

    This is something I also struggle with Steph. It is just horrid, as I feel I can hardly function without at least 6 hours sleep. I really need 8 hours, but 7 is ok. I also have to take a nap when I have had one of my bad nights, nothing wrong with that!! My mind like yours, is very often unable to switch off, it whirrs round and round like a computer that won’t shut down going over and over things, and with other little ‘pop-ups’ popping into my mind too. I do feel for you. I wish there was something that guaranteed a good night sleep without taking medication. I even tried hypnotherapy!! If you find something that works, let me know.

    As every your proud Aunty Jo

    • sjmarsh2013 says:

      Thanks Auntie Jo. I will definitely let you know if I find anything. The ASMR technique mentioned by Maximusaurus seems worth checking out if that is any help. xx

  2. maximusaurus says:

    As someone with Asperger’s I too struggle with sleep.
    The most useful sleep aid I’ve found isn’t chemical, but rather ASMR: I wrote a piece about it a few weeks ago:

  3. PK says:

    My PDD-NOS son hadn’t slept through the night (so neither did I) for the first 6-1/2 years of his life. The pediatrician said melatonin might help – in a liquid form the dosage is completely adjustable, so it might be a good option.

    My sister made a weighted blanket – it worked for him practically overnight – he’s been sleeping through the night about 95% of the time. He’s a sensory seeker, so he likes the pressure and it works for his system. I don’t know if this solution would work for you, but maybe it will benefit someone with sleep challenges.
    This is the pattern she used, but she sewed down the middle, and then across (she has a heavy duty sewing machine that sews through the velcro. It has no pellets and is totally machine washable.

    • sjmarsh2013 says:

      Thank you for your post, PK. I know that weighted blankets can be very helpful for certain people on the spectrum who struggle with sleep but it wouldn’t work for me personally as I don’t like having the duvet on me at the best of times-I tend to kick it off and sleep half out of it most nights. Thanks for the suggestion though and I think it will definitely help others xx

  4. Its interesting that you should mention sleep issues because its only in the past year that I have had issues with sleeping. I have always been able to sleep “on a clothesline” as they say with a magical ability to fall asleep anywhere, despite a force 5 hurricane, a thunderstorm or whatever else was going on. Now it is not so easily as life troubles me more. I’m far more aware of the worlds issues and I worry although this is different to the kind of worries I had when I was younger. I think this is the penalty of ageing, interrupted sleep.

  5. Nothing changes here then as I have had all manner of sleep issues and I don’t even have anything to worry about (job, children etc)

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