If you have a child diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) then you’re already intimate with the challenges of raising a child with autism. It’s overwhelming to parent as it is, then add on the everyday responsibility of caring for a child with autism and you may feel like you’re on the road to burnout. As this article plainly puts it:

“For parents and caregivers, sleep issues deepen the stresses they may already feel managing the needs of a child on the spectrum on top of life’s other demands.”

Be easy on yourself. You’re not naturally an expert in autism; but you can take steps to tackle big issues one at a time. While we’re not experts on autism or parenting, we can help you in an important area where the two of these merge, and that’s sleep.

As you may already know, autistic children struggle to fall and stay asleep. In fact, between 40 to 80% of children with ASD have difficulty sleeping.

Not getting enough sleep impacts a child’s developmental health and wellbeing. And considering the challenges for children with autism in their social, emotional and communication skills—a night of restorative, deep sleep is even more critical.

Inadequate sleep can quickly become an unbearable cycle to break free from: the behaviours that are preventing your child from sleeping are heightened if they don’t get enough sleep.

A lack of sleep will result in the following behaviours: 

  • Aggression

  • Irritability

  • Inattention

  • Hyperactivity

  • Physical aggressiveness

Essentially, sleep deficiency brings out the worst in your child on the spectrum. This is likely to have a snowball effect in your house—it could deepen your worry and stress. As a result, you don’t get enough sleep, your partner doesn’t get enough sleep and you hit a wall with everything.

It’s not surprising then, that this study revealed how parents of children with autism sleep less and reported poorer sleep quality. That’s why knowing the root and solution to your child’s sleep issues can be beneficial to your overall health in addition to theirs.

Signs that your child is having sleep issues

You’ll probably quickly notice the behavioural characteristics mentioned above but it might be hard to differentiate between a bad day and a deeper rooted issue in your child’s sleep cycle. Here are some other signs you can look for to better discern if your child isn’t getting enough sleep:

  • Bedwetting

  • Night terrors

  • Snoring

  • Restless sleep

Why do children with autism struggle with sleep?

The truth is, there’s still not a lot known about the connection between autistic children and issues with sleep. The medical problems that commonly trouble people on the spectrum include: anxiety disorders, ADHD, gastrointestinal distress and seizures – which need medications that can disrupt sleep.

Beyond concrete medical issues, there are other reasons that children with autism might struggle with sleep and it’s large in part due to the symptoms of being diagnosed on the spectrum. This includes:

10 tips for getting your autistic kid to sleep

Rest assured that helping your kid get a quality night of sleep is not out of reach. Once you know how to approach bedtime then you can definitely make a difference, both in their sleep and your family’s life. Here are some approaches to help your child sleep better:


Take care and be rest assured that decent sleep is completely attainable for you and your autistic child. It might take some trial and error and some patience but you’ll get there. If you notice that the strategies above aren’t working after a period of time, reach out to your child’s health professional to discern whether or not they need something more for their sleep. You got this!