Research has identified that 90% of individuals on the autism spectrum have methylation impairments. The methylation cycle is the cycle in the body that governs development, regulation of brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, managing inflammation and removing environmental toxins. Serotonin is a much needed neurotransmitter when it comes to sleep.
Children with ASD are more likely to have circadian rhythm (natural wake/sleep cycles) disturbances and may have abnormal melatonin regulation. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the wake/sleep cycle. In addition, children with autism may be more anxious about the bedtime routine and may have difficulty with the social cues that signal bedtime. They are also more sensitive to sensory experiences such as light, touch or sound.
Many children with ASD have also reported being woke up in the night due to a noise. Unfortunately, when individuals with ASD wake up in the night, they are unable to go back to sleep due to their brain chemicals.
A strict, normal routine helps with the methylation cycle. I follow the same routine 7 days a week and once the boys are asleep, I have no TV on.....nothing that will make a noise . Sleep is way too important and I truly believe this is helping Trenton with his sleep problems.
Trenton has had extreme sleep problems since he was born. Trenton and I have functioned on less sleep than I ever thought was possible. Trenton's sleep is still bad and I fear that it will always be a huge issue with him. However, even though it is still bad, he has been in the best period of sleep that he has ever been in. I still can not count on him sleeping through the night but he is doing great since December. Like I mentioned earlier, I believe the same, strict routine and quiet house once he is asleep is helping his sleep.
For years I was used to 2 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. I was used to trying to calm Trenton's meltdowns in the middle of the night. I saw things and witnessed things that only another autism parent, who had a child like Trenton, would believe. I have drove the roads for countless hours in the night trying to put Trenton to sleep. I have been so sleep deprived that I have literally laid down in vomit and feces and slept because Trenton just closed his eyes and the cleaning of the huge mess from his GI issues could wait till he opened his eyes because I needed my sleep. I have drove to and from therapy on 2 hours of sleep daily. I know what sleep deprivation feels like. I know what it is like to push yourself through pure exhaustion and sleep deprivation. So....even though his sleep isn't perfect and it could be better, I will gladly take what I have been getting since December!!!! GLADLY:)
Autism presents itself so differently in each and every child. Some children have no sleep issues and some have very severe sleep issues. I am not sure that we will ever understand every little piece of autism. I would love for the boys to be able to explain how they feel one day.