• Understanding Autism from the Inside

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Asperger’s Syndrome and Sleep Issues

Insomnia and Sensory Processing Issues

Sleep! If only I can get some sleep!

For as long as I can remember, I had the worst sleeping patterns imaginable. When I was younger, I remember watching every episode of The Honeymooners, and the original Star Trek series. The problem was they were on at midnight, and 1 am, and I was in elementary school. My sleeping patterns have never changed. A few of my friends have recommended looking at websites such as leaf2go for example, which may benefit people suffering with insomnia. Although, you might want advice from a doctor before purchasing any new treatments if you’re already on a medication that seems to be working positively.

I stare at the ceiling until 5 or 6 am trying to sleep. All this accomplishes is my being angry and exhausted! My body and mind does not shut off! I started wondering whether it was my mattress that wasn’t letting me get a sufficient amount of sleep. I must admit, I have been looking into these latex mattresses with premium satisfying texture for a while now, as they’re supposed to promote excellent sleep. However, I’m keen to try other methods for now. When I began to learn more about my autism, I realized my mind shutting off was not the only thing keeping me awake.

My husband snoring, the baby whining, my oldest son grunting in his sleep, the air conditioning unit humming, the crickets having a party outside the window, the dog down the street barking, the garbage trucks picking up commercial garbage two streets over at 4 am….. thanks to my sensory processing issues I can hear it all! By morning my head is pounding!

Now let’s add to the madness. My 13 year old Aspie son doesn’t sleep either, and my 8 year old, who I suspect lies somewhere on the autism spectrum, is often up to 5 or 6 am bouncing off the walls. Many times he climbs into my bed crying because he is tired but cannot fall asleep. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

Melatonin and Insomnia

The solution: Ok–let’s face it, there really isn’t a solution, but I can tell you what has helped tremendously over the past couple of weeks. Melatonin and ear plugs!

My doctor suggested I try melatonin not only for me but for the boys as well. Although I love this particular doctor and have a lot of respect for him, I am distrustful of doctors in general. I also am extremely leery about giving or taking any kind of medication. No–melatonin is not a drug, but I was worried anyway.

It was thanks to others in the autism community that I finally felt comfortable enough to give it a try. Particularly helpful was a post from Autism Daddy, which you can find here: http://autism-daddy.blogspot.com/2011/12/all-about-kyle-and-sleep-or-why-i-bow.html#more

Thank you Autism Daddy, this was a God-send!

The melatonin worked on my 8 year old immediately. For the past two weeks, he has slept beautifully without waking in the night. I began with only 1/2 mg, and he is now up to 5 mg’s. I found strawberry flavored meltaways on Amazon, and it has been awesome. It works within an hour and allows him to fall asleep. He wakes refreshed in the morning without being groggy. My 13 year old falls asleep within an hour and has a much more peaceful night’s sleep. I’ve noticed that the moaning and grunting all night long as stopped. He sleeps quietly.

As for me, I am also taking 5 mg, which has helped tremendously, as does the lack of grunting all night long. I still have nights where it is very difficult for me to fall asleep. My husband thinks I just may need a higher dose, but I found another helpful trick. Ear plugs! Wearing soft earplugs to sleep has helped drown out some of the noise and alleviates my headaches. I have slept for several nights now without waking too often.

My next goal: getting the baby moved out of my room. I cannot continue to wake up every time he wets his diaper! I haven’t quite figured out how to quench my sense of smell while I sleep yet, but I am working on it. I tried putting glade plug-ins by my nightstands, scented oils, candles, and Airwick automatic sprayers. Sometimes it works, sometimes it causes more problems.

Does anyone have any creative solutions for sleeping through horrible smells that doesn’t involve my sticking ear plugs up my nose?

Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert, contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, on the autism spectrum.


  1. Hmm… I will have to look into this! I don’t take anything and don’t give my son anything as well. The other night 3 am (I was awake) and walked passed his bedroom. He said “mom, what do you do when you can’t sleep?” Aw.. thank you for sharing! I had tried Benadryl, I didn’t fall asleep right away but when I did I kept waking myself up. This seems like something that might work for the both of us!

  2. Hey William,

    I copy & pasted your post in the comments section of “Learning American Idioms.” This is hysterical.


  3. How about shit fire and save a match? Most often this is an expression used for frustration but I often wonder, if you had to save a match, would your first choice be to shit fire? Would that really ever be a choice? And as an expression of frustration, I cannot for the life of me gather what it means. It sounds great but…..here is another one, if you dont mind. What does it mean when someone says, “Go piss up a rope!” I suppose it implies the impossibility of this task but why a rope? And is that like, “Go take a long walk off a short pier.”???? I figure it probably means the same thing. Then there are others like, “I’m so bright my father called me son.” which is not exactly an idiom I guess, but something like it. “I see said the blind man as he picked up his hammer and saw.” is just a play on words really, but a mighty clever one and if you wanted to ponder whether the blind man actually saw or not, really, you could do it comfortably for hours. In addition, I saw many woodchucks in New York and none of them chucked wood. In point of fact, beavers chuck wood, and I saw them too. Woodchucks are ready-made meals for predators which means that a bobcat may very well chuck a woodchuck but there is no chance whatsoever that a woodchuck would chuck a bobcat or wood for that matter. And if a woodchuck could chuck wood, it is likely he would chuck it at the bobcat, if you understand my meaning. Well, I love this post especially well. Good subject matter.

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