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No Sleep?  ​A Few Suggestions

by Cari Ansbro

Blessed sleep.  We all know how vital sleep is.  It's not only restorative, it's necessary to our health.  Yet, how many of us actually get enough of it?

It's more than just a nice thought when you live with autism.  More than half of all people with autism have some kind of sleep disturbance.  Whether it's insomnia, night terrors, or difficulty staying asleep a decent night's rest can be very hard to come by.

Granted, plenty of parents are used to sleep deprivation, but autism parents know a whole other level of sleep deficit.  Like when your child hasn't slept more than 90 consecutive minutes in over 4 years.  Or when it took 2 hours to get them to sleep only to have them wake for the day before 3 a.m.  Or they're 8 years old and have never slept through the night. 

Whatever your level of sleep deprivation, you know just how much it affects your day (not to mention your concentration, patience, and sense of well-being). 

The following is a list of some of the most common over-the-counter supplements or remedies for inducing healthy natural sleep.  It's not intended to be medical advice.  Everyone is different, and only you know your specific situation.  So take what's useful to you and leave the rest.  And of course, run it by your doctor just to be safe.


This is one of the first things most doctors will recommend.  It's generally considered safe for short term, and long term use.  But recent studies suggest it might be best to avoid use in those under 18.


Chamomile is a natural and generally safe herb used for centuries to calm and relax.  It can be a great asset in dealing with sleeplessness or anxiety.  If you have any concerns about its safety or possible interaction with medicines, ask your doctor.

B Vitamins

Okay, technically B vitamins aren't known for inducing sleep.  But they are an excellent supplement for helping our bodies deal with stress and the many responses we have to it.  Irritability, depression, and anxiety are just a few common reactions to stress, and can make it harder to sleep.  A good B complex supplement can help take the edge off enough for you (or your loved one) to relax.  


Short for 5-hydroxytryptophan, 5-HTP is a precursor to serotonin and is often used for sleep disorders to help the body increase serotonin production.  However, there are several medications which can interact with 5-HTP so, please check with your doctor before taking.


​Magnesium is an essential mineral and natural muscle relaxer.  Most people in the U.S. are magnesium deficient.  If you don't tolerate oral magnesium, it's available in topical forms as well.  There are magnesium oil sprays and rubs. It's also the main ingredient in Epsom salt.  And who doesn't love an Epsom salt bath?


There are many essential oils available which can be used for helping encourage a state of relaxation and, hopefully, sleep.  Among these are lavender, chamomile, clary sage, sandalwood, and ylang-ylang.  If you don't like the ones listed, there are many others so you're not out of luck.  Of course, if you or your loved one are sensitive to smells, aromatherapy may not be the choice for you. 

Hopefully, some of these suggestions will help you achieve that elusive sleep you're searching for.  If something has worked well for you and it isn't listed here, please email us and let us know.  Happy sleeping!