Autism and its effects on sleep

Eighty percent of all young people with ASD have difficulty falling and staying asleep.

The Hughes Brothers do not know at first hand of the hurt, the heartache, the stupid worry, the numbed-up exhaustion of persuading, night after night, a beloved little one to . . . please, please, please . . . try to get some sleep. Our brother Mike Hughes knows more than the rest of us combined, and he knows because of his daughters, young women with hearts the size of Kansas who work with families confronting the hourly challenges, the minute-to-minute demands of loving and living with children with autism spectrum disorder.

Mike Hughes, through his knowing daughters, guides our research. He informs our collective opinion.

The rest of the brothers offer you our hearts and our minds and our most sincere, if incomplete, understanding of the difficulties your family must confront as a result of loving a little child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Thank you for your time and your trust. We promise you all the support we can muster. Thank you. Thank you.

Lack of sleep compounds the ASD problem. And so it goes.

A tired little guy to begin with, now even more worn out here at five in the morning . . .

Talk about vicious.

This cycle.

This roundabout whirligig of one trouble after another. No sleep leads to more hyperactivity. Bad sleep means even more inability to concentrate. An endless night of thrashing about, of sleeping at best in fits and starts – it means a morning of aggression, flat-out bad temper from your child, your sibling.

Meanwhile, you’re tired too. Bone tired.


And the loving doesn’t come easy. These chilly mornings before the furnace kicks in, but your child has once again for mighty damn certain started kicking. And kicking. And screaming. And hurting all over the house.

Autism and its effects on sleep: Let’s agree on some medical understanding.

Once more, we Hughes Brothers in no way hold ourselves out among you as medical authorities of any stripe. Nothing could be further from the truth. We’re Kansas guys who have come round to research about autism – more specifically research about products that might help families dealing with ASD – because of some nieces who stole our hearts clean away a long time ago.

So here we go.

We’re reading the bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, in its current edition also known as DSM-5.

Hard going. Really hard going.

But we’re certain of this much:

here come the diagnostic criteria for ASD, group one.

1. Persistent deficits in communication skills, obvious problems in appropriate social interaction in multiple settings – school, for sure, and birthday parties and funerals and airplane flights – who can say when a disruption might occur?

2. An inability to converse, irregular eye movements, nervous tics, a total lack of facial expression, and on. And on.

3. So much difficulty in developing and then maintaining, much less understanding different types of human social relationships.

Group two. Again and again and again.

You know. Oh my Lord, you know. These patterns – these tiresome and oh, so painfully predictable patterns – of behavior. God bless you, and let’s discuss.

1. Muscular movements, bizarre placements of the limbs.

2. Miming. Oh dear, just spot-on repetitions of the speech of her sisters, his teachers, the mailman. It happens, and it’s called echolalia, the clinical term for what you hear day to day.

3. A preoccupation with the most rigid sorts of order, lining up – bless her heart – potato chips in a military straightness.

4. A heartfelt, often vocal adherence to patterns, to the repeated comfort of expectable events hour after hour.

5. Fixation on a somewhere object – a stuffed animal, a television program, an imaginary friend.

6. Super, super sensitivity to some environmental presence: the smell of tacos for supper, a song on the stereo, that cardinal flitting about the birdfeeder in the backyard.

Forgive us. We’re learning as we go.

More to come tomorrow, as the Hughes Brothers think along with you, about how in the world are we going to help this beautiful, this blessed child.

Stay strong and read more Autism support articles here.