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Why shorter nights can be a problem

We all know that sleep can be a challenge for most autistic children. This time of year doesn't help with lighter evenings and mornings, meaning it can be harder to sleep and stay asleep in the morning.

Whilst most autistic-related things don't have a clear scientific basis, this one does. Melatonin is a hormone primarily produced in the brain's pineal gland. Melatonin has several functions, but its most well-known is regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Several studies have suggested that autistic people may have disruptions in their 24-hour rhythm and melatonin production. Some studies have also shown that autistic children tend to have lower levels of melatonin compared to neurotypical children. Melatonin levels typically rise in the evening as it gets darker, which reminds the body that it is time to sleep. Extended hours of daylight mean that everyone experiences a delayed production of melatonin. The impact is more significant when this happens in someone who already produces less melatonin.

Using blackout blinds or curtains creates a darker environment, which in turn encourages melatonin levels to rise and sleep to be more restful. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule for your child all year round is essential, as it will help with sleep challenges. If sleep is becoming a big problem, it might be worth talking to your child's paediatrician to discuss other, more tailored strategies and interventions to help them sleep.

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