Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder with many characteristic features. Across the spectrum, several abnormal behaviours make it difficult to function during the day. Among others, concentration disorders, hyperactivity, language disorders, or difficulties in social relations may appear – these are only some of the behaviours that may be present in people with autism. Researchers have shown that as many as 40-80% of them experience sleep disorders. Can this be remedied somehow? How can we help autistic people sleep better? With support comes a weighted blanket!
Why do autistic people sleep badly?
The Sleep journal featured an article in early 2020 about sleep issues in people with autism. Why do they sleep worse? Why do they have difficulty falling asleep? Why do they wake up more often? Researchers from Ben Gurion University in Israel studied a group of children diagnosed with autism and a peer group without such a diagnosis. It turned out that the characteristic brain activity in children with autism prevented them from sleeping.
For the deep sleep phase, slow brain waves with high amplitude are typical. Research has shown that these waves are as much as 25% weaker in children with autism, decreasing sleep quality, especially the regenerative phase of deep sleep. This is why they often wake up, have nightmares, or even sleepwalk. Due to the importance of adequate sleep to good health, scientists are looking for various ways to improve the sleep quality of people with autism. Are there alternatives to medication?
Sensory Integration Disorder and sleep
Sensory processing disorders are prevalent among children with autism, which significantly affect their ability to function during the day and sleep at night. That is why parents and children are aided with behavioural therapy, sleep hygiene, pharmacological treatment, or the use of a weighted blanket. A team of scientists from the Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions in the USA decided to investigate the effectiveness of the weighted blanket on the sleep quality in children with autism.
Why weighted blankets? Because they stimulate deep sensation and provide tactile stimuli that have a calming effect. The researchers took their cue from previous scientific reports, clearly showing that the blankets help modulate and stabilise sensory stimuli perception and reduce anxiety. If a child can function better during the day, his sleep will be much better. This is why therapists have been using weighted products in therapy for many years. A good night’s sleep also makes dealing with emotions easier.
A weighted blanket helps you to fall asleep faster
Why is falling asleep quickly essential? Because it is immediately followed by the deep sleep phase, which is the most important. Waking up this phase is very bad for our bodies. Children who have greater sensory sensitivity need more time to calm down and fall asleep. A study of children with autism who used weighted blankets found that they fell asleep much more quickly and had behaviour improvements the next day. This is owing to an increase in the quality of nightly rest.
Research shows that weighted blankets give autistic children a sense of comfort and security. In addition, they reduce the level of agitation and impulsivity and help control emotions. Therefore, it is worth using weight products to improve sleep quality and calm down or relax during the day. New scientific reports are constantly emerging that confirm the effectiveness of such products. Ensure a healthy sleep for your whole family!