Healthy sleep habits start before we go to bed, with a Bedtime Routine. Your Autistic child’s Bedtime Routine is a set of 3-5 activities that you complete every night in the same order before sleep. These steps should start and end at the same time each night, for a regular sleep schedule. Typically, a Bedtime Routine might take 30 minutes to an hour but there is no set time – it is what works for you and your family! These tips are suitable for neurodivergent children ( for example, Autistic children or children with ADHD, global developmental delay or intellectual disability) or neurotypical children.
At the start of the evening, the Bedtime Routine acts as a signal to tell us when it is time to sleep. It is important that the same steps are completed in the same order each and every night before bed, so that your child can associate the bedtime routine with sleep. The key to a successful bedtime routine is to keep it consistent!
It is easy to fall into the trap of creating a long, complicated Bedtime Routine. However, if this is not achievable for your family each and every night then it will be difficult to be consistent. Instead, it is best to choose 3-5 simple activities that you can complete each night with your child and that works for your family.
The final step of a Bedtime Routine should be bidding your child goodnight before they fall asleep. Helping your child wind down by choosing quiet, calming Bedtime Routine activities will help with this transition to bed. This might include bathtime, reading a book together or talking about your child’s day before you bid them goodnight. If your child has difficulty with these activities, consider teaching them during the daytime before including them in your Bedtime Routine.
It is generally recommended to reduce screen time and bright lights before bed. During the Bedtime Routine, avoid playing with the iPad or other screens. Instead, opt for quiet down-time activities that you can do with your child and that helps them wind down for bed. Check out some suggestions for Bedtime Routines for different ages here!
The Bedtime Routine is the perfect moment to help your child learn independent daily living skills! Aim to include activities such as washing their face or brushing their teeth to support them to do these activities independently. These are great healthy habits to set in place for your child each night.
Once you have created your own Bedtime Routine for your Autistic child, you can kickstart your whole family’s healthy sleep habits!
Disclaimer: The advice in this article is general in nature. If your child experiences sleep difficulties, reach out to a trusted professional for further individualised advice and support.