Stylish and Comfortable Furniture

Autism And Sleep: Designing A Sensory Friendly Bedroom For Your Child

by Jason Mason

If you have a child on the autism spectrum, you know that sometimes bedtime and sleep can be a challenge. A peaceful bedtime and restful sleep can be difficult for child who has heightened sensory awareness and who reacts more robustly to the stimuli of their surroundings. There are many things you can do to help make the bedroom a safe, restful space for your child.

1. Start with a great bed and bedding.

Some children with autism can be very particular about comfort and the things that help them to feel secure. Every child with autism has different needs and patterns, so you should carefully analyze their needs before selecting a mattress. For example, if your child prefers plenty of space around them with nothing touching their skin, it's probably better to look for a firm mattress that will respond well to this preference. For children who like the security of a weighted blanket, a memory foam mattress can help provide similar contact and security from underneath.

You can call local mattress stores ahead of time and make an appointment to take your child to try different mattresses. Be sure to explain that no bedding or light displays should be present when you come shopping, as these could sway your child in what mattress they prefer. If your child is verbal, listen for spoken clues that indicate which mattress they gravitate toward. For non-verbal children, look for other signs, such as an unwillingness to try any other mattress types. 

Because textures and feelings are very important to your child, bedding should be soft. Your child may have a favorite fabric type-- you might consider making sheets from this type of fabric to make the bedroom a great, comfortable space. 

Choose a bed frame made from natural wood if possible. Metal frames can begin to squeak over time, and the sound can be distracting from rest. Choose woods that are stained in neutral tones or painted in a neutral color, like white or grey. If your child is mobile during sleep, you might consider purchasing a railing to attach to the bed edge for their own protection. 

2. Choose the right colors.

Children with autism are often highly responsive to different colors and may adamantly prefer certain colors over others. While some favorite colors can go into a design scheme, keep in mind that red, yellow, and orange are often too stimulating for autistic children, leading to more frequent wake-ups throughout the night. Instead, choose bedding that has subtle patterns (or none at all) in cool, soothing tones like a muted teal or a soft grey. Bold patterns, like black and white checkers, should also be avoided because they can be distressing for children who have heightening sensory awareness -- they may feel that portions of the floor are unsafe or threatening. 

3. Declutter as much as possible.

Clutter leads to sensory confusion and distraction, which is not helpful for sleep. Instead of having several bright posters on one or many walls, choose one poster or picture for each wall. If you have lots of toys stored in the room, take most of them out and keep toys that can put on a cubby-style shelf with one toy in each space. Consider organizing books by color to help facilitate a sense of order and structure. help your child get into the habit of making the bed each morning and returning things to a specific place. Keeping the space organized and familiar will help your child view the room as a place of security where they can relax enough for effective sleeping.