Written by Florence Neville
Last week I tweeted on behalf of @AutismHWB –
#AskingAutistics What are your top tips for getting to sleep and staying asleep?
Whether you find conventional advice helpful or you have your own methods that help you calm down and drift off, we’d love to hear your strategies!
(Please RT for a wider response.)
– and the response was fantastic! Over 60 people responded, outlining the strategies they use to sleep that little better at night. Below, I have summarised these strategies as potential inspiration, but want to be clear that Autism HWB in no way endorses these approaches as medical advice. Individuals have practised and/or developed these strategies using research and personal experimentation, and what is safe and effective for one person may not be for another (many factors that must be taken into account cannot fit into a tweet). This blog post is intended for informational purposes only; you should always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider about any questions and concerns you may have before initiating or changing any medicines, supplements, exercise, or lifestyle practices.
That said, some of these tips may be useful to consider or bring to your healthcare provider to discuss if they may be supportive for you.
Here are the strategies in alphabetical order:
Acceptance – a couple of people mentioned how accepting that sleep might not come easily or regularly is a helpful way to reduce stress around sleep.
Audiobooks – many people used audiobooks, particularly familiar ones that encouraged them to drift off while listening. Some left theirs on overnight and some used a sleep timer so that they wouldn’t have to actively turn their audiobook off just as they were falling asleep. “When I wake up there’s something to focus on other than 3am “the world sucks” thoughts.”
Avoiding – caffeine, news, screens, social media, anything upsetting
Background sounds – some found rain, relaxing music or white noise soothing, while others needed complete silence and might use earplugs.
Baths – or washing or “self-love in a hot shower.” Also, rubbing in magnesium oil.
Bedding – weighted blankets (or several blankets) were very popular although one respondent found them unhelpful. Some needed pillows to be in particular positions such as over their head or tight around their body “like a burrito.” One respondent has slept best on the floor since childhood.
Creativity – playing relaxing and slow games, or playing an instrument. “Thinking about something calm but creative, like a knitting pattern, to let my brain wind down without expecting it to just shut off.”
Darkness – complete darkness was needed by a few and a couple mentioned eye-masks.
Food or drink – almonds, cider and milk were all mentioned (although not together!)
Imagination – elaborately visualising scenes, fantasies, lucid dreaming, making up stories “I think about how it will be, when the things that worry me are all okay and fine.”
Medication – in particular anti-histamines, anti-psychotics, benzodiazepines, NSAIDs, sedatives, SSRIs and synthetic melatonin. It is very important to only take medications that have been prescribed to you by your physician, as they were prescribed to take. If you are curious about whether a different type of medication would support your sleep challenges, talk to your doctor.
Mindfulness or meditation – such practices were mentioned by a few, including breathing exercises, grounding exercises, guided sleep meditations.
Movement – exercise to burn off excess energy, ‘pacing’, stretching, walking and yoga.
Pets – some found that having their cats or dogs in the bed with them was helpful while one tweeted that they needed to shut their pets out of the room so that they wouldn’t be woken up by them.
Podcasts, TV episodes, documentaries etc. – these generally needed to be familiar enough to be soothing but interesting enough to block out anxious thoughts, although one tweeted that they wanted “the dullest podcast possible.” One respondent liked to hear conversational podcasts so as not to feel alone.
Reading – a few mentioned reading books until they drifted off, particularly with e-readers that could be dimmed and that would turn off automatically when not used. “I always read myself to sleep and have done since I was really young. It helps keep my thoughts contained long enough to get to sleep.”
Routine – some followed particular routines before bed while others talked about needing to go to bed at the same time each night, or going to bed well in advance of wanting to sleep. A couple mentioned purposely reminding themselves to go to bed.
Temperature – many needed a cool room, but their actual beds often needed to be warm and cosy, possibly pre-heated. Bed socks were also mentioned, and also needing fresh air.
Supportive herbs or supplements – adaptogenic herbs, cannabis (or constituent cannabinoids), herbal tea, magnesium, Rescue Remedy, 5HTP.
I hope that you have found these helpful (although, do read our disclaimer before you proceed with trying any of the suggestions out!) Feel free to retweet the original post and do add your own suggestions to the thread, thank you!