Improper Sleep cycle in ADHD and ASD kids

Have you spotted your little one roaming in the whole house late at night? Does he wake up suddenly in the middle of night and is unable to sleep back? Does he often wakes up multiple times from sleep upon small sounds ? If yes, these are strong signs of an improper sleep cycle. Children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) are twice as likely to experience sleeplessness than their peers, while children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder)  are two to three times more likely. Improper sleep cycle can in turn disturb the entire schedule of the day by not letting the child properly focus in performing his daily activities. Thus it’s very important to understand this issue better and take appropriate steps in this regard.

Let’s try to dig a little deeper into it!

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WHAT CAUSES SLEEP PROBLEMS IN CHILDREN?

Some of the likely causes include side effects of medications, comorbid medical issues and genetic abnormalities that mess with the sleep cycle.

1. Side effects of medications: Treatment of ASD and ADHD involves the use of high power medications for treating anxiety, depression. This can in turn affect the mental state of the child and can also affect his/her timely routine. These medications may result in disturbed sleep patterns due to hyperactivity before bedtime. Another typical side effect of antipsychotics and ADHD drugs given to children with ASD is drowsiness.

2. Comorbid health conditions: Individuals with autism also suffer from gastrointestinal issues, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or anxiety. They combinedly interfere with proper goodnight sleep. For instance, constipation-related cramps may keep a person with autism up at night. Sensory sensitivity to light, sound, or touch may be a factor in trouble falling asleep.

3. Abnormal Geneplay: Inverse melatonin (Sleep hormone) mechanism is seen in case of ASD kids. As compared to normal people, their levels peak in the morning, which affects their sleep-wake pattern. And thus they face severe difficulty with sleep at night.

WHY IS PROPER GOODNIGHT SLEEP IMPORTANT?

A peaceful night sleep is very precious to keep the brain proactive all along the day. It is a must for leading a healthy life. Your brain organises the events of the day before while you sleep, sharpens your memory, and causes the production of hormones that control your mood, energy level, and mental clarity. For this, the brain needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep to finish its work. Without proper sleep, it gets harder to concentrate and respond quickly. Sleep is crucial for several brain processes, including the communication between nerve cells (neurons). So, you must be wondering right? How can we regularize our sleep cycle?

Continue reading to get to know about some effective sleeping tips!

TIPS TO IMPROVE SLEEP

Humans are indeed creatures of habit! Let’s look at some effective ways to fall asleep.

  1. Bedtime setting: Good sleep habits are encouraged by a consistent bedtime routine that begins at approximately the same time each night. Younger children may feel more prepared for sleep if they have a nightly routine that includes a bath, story, and bed. A quiet conversation with you about their day followed by some alone time to relax before lights out may be part of the routine for older kids. For example: 30 minutes before bedtime, start some quiet activities like reading or drawing in the family room. Then 15 minutes before bedtime, get your child to clean their teeth and go to the toilet.
  1. Sleep with weighted blanket: Kids with neuro-developmental problems like ADHD and ASD frequently have poor sensory perception making it difficult for them to grasp where their bodies are in space. Over the course of the night, a thick, weighted blanket can exert deep pressure on the body’s muscles and joints, helping with the control of an unbalanced sense of self and help in calming an overactive central nervous system. The body’s natural ability to fall asleep can be supported by regulating and soothing the senses.
  1. Enough physical activity: Encourage your youngster to be more active during the day if you can. Ample natural light during the day also aids with sleep, so it’s ideal if your youngster can be active outside. For eg: Simple activities like skipping, jumping or jogging helps the child to remain proactive and also strengthens the muscles. It gives the child a sense of satisfaction about the activity performed. At the end of the day, a feeling of relaxment can help the child to sleep peacefully.
  1. No stimulants before bed time:  Energy drinks, coffee, tea, chocolate, and cola all contain caffeine. Make sure your youngster stays away from these things, especially later in the day or at night. Because it acts as a stimulant and can mess up with sleep. If your child stays away from excitement, TV, and screens an hour before bed, they are more likely to relax and fall asleep at ease.
  1. Set up a sound and comfortable environment:  The environment around directly casts its impact over sleep. Children with ADHD or ASD may find it difficult to sleep in a noisy or disturbed place. Make sure your child’s sleeping area is peaceful, dimly lighted, and not too hot or cold. Gradually remove items that can prevent your child from falling asleep pleasantly. A favourite soft toy on the bed, for instance, would be OK. However, it could be difficult for your youngster to feel at ease in bed if they have a large collection of toy automobiles in their bedroom.

Also check: Foods that help with sound sleep

These tips must be followed with proper food intake.

FOODS THAT CAN REGULATE SLEEP CYCLE

Some foods that can help up in regulating the sleep cycle include:

1. Nuts

Nuts including almonds, walnuts, pistachios and cashews are considered to be a good food source for sleep. They contain melatonin as well as magnesium, vitamin B6, protein and zinc. Magnesium is helpful in promoting sleep because of its ability to reduce inflammation (body heat). Nuts also help in reducing cortisol stress hormone that disturbs the sleeping. (What nuts are easy protein sources?)

2. Pumpkin seeds:

A study published in 2005 in Nutritional neuroscience suggested that consuming tryptophan alongside a carbohydrates source is one of the best ways to treat sleep deprivation. They are rich in healthy fats, magnesium, fibre, antioxidants and zinc. If your kid has trouble sleeping, give a few pumpkin seeds before bed with small amounts of carbohydrates such as a piece of fruit. It may be beneficial in providing the body with tryptophan needed for melatonin production, which can lead to better sleep. For younger kids, powdered pumpkin seeds can be an option

3. Chamomile:

Chamomile is safe to consume and effectively helps in relaxing the kid. It’s a dried flower. These flowers are white and yellow and look like beautiful little daisies. It is native to Europe and Asia. Its mainly used for medicinal purposes to calm the mind by mildly inducing sleep. It Improves relaxation and relieves stress, reduces anxiety, promotes sleep and relieves insomnia.

4. Lemon Balm:

Lemon balm extracts: A Phytomedicine Compound Improves Symptoms of Hyperactivity, Attention Deficits, and Impulsivity in Children. As per the study conducted by NIH, The fraction of children having strong/very strong symptoms of poor ability to focus decreased from 75% to 14%, hyperactivity from 61% to 13%, and impulsiveness from 59% to 22%. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24837472/)

5. Antioxidants:

Pure Cocoa powder (unsweetened) contains an important brain boosting antioxidants molecule named epicatechin which is helpful to improve cognition in studies. Hence, cocoa powder is also an important brain development food for children.

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