Autism and sleeping patterns

As I start to write this it’s nearly 1am and I’m still awake, again. Sleep has always been a struggle for me and I link it to being wired differently due to autism. Not only do I find it hard to switch off and be able to wind down my mind, I suffer with nightmares and bizarre dreams.

I haven’t had any official tests but I had a GP contact a sleep centre on my behalf, who said it was a more common problem even though my Dr had never come acr9ss a patient like me before. To put into into more context this was a few years before I ever thought I was Autistic so Autism wasn’t there as a reference point or a connection. The sleep centre relayed back that my brain isn’t turning itself down as much as it should when I sleep, there’s still more activity going on than a ‘normal’ brain has when sleeping so that’s why I have this problem. Unfortunately, the tried and tested solution was very strong epilepsy medication but I was too scared to take it. I was advised to take a week off work as the possible side effects were chronic headaches, seizures and other scary things so there was no way I was going to take them and I’ve just carried on as best I can ever since.

Not getting enough sleep, or enough quality sleep, affects everyone negatively but I am so used to being tired all the time that I don’t know the difference. I can’t remember a time we’re I was able to get up, straight out of bed and be able to do a full day of anything. Throw in sensory overload to the mix and I probably achieve half of what other people can on my best days. On my worst I am too exhausted to even get dressed or brush my hair and I feel like my brain has been replaced with cotton wool. On those days good luck getting coherent conversation out of me!

My body and head always seem to do everything to extremes as well, there’s no middle ground. When I was working I was so exhausted and overwhelmed that I couldn’t stay awake, now I’m not working I can’t sleep. It’s not for lack of trying to tire myself out, I just don’t seem to be able to fit enough mental activities in at the right times to get sleepy. I also seem to be a somewhat fussy sleeper, small things can keep me awake for hours, the room has to be as dark as possible, it has to be as quiet as possible and it has to be the right temperature. Tonight, my feet are cold and I’m very aware that they’re cold and aching from being cold and it’s keeping me awake (and they’re as close to the radiator as possible while still being in bed).

Even through all this I do consider myself lucky as my nightmares are very sporadic, I’ll go through phases when I have more of them and they’re really terrifying. I’m in a phase we’re im not having many of them at all because I have minimal stress and other factors that make them worse are not there. I went through a really bad stage in my 20’s when my nightmares felt so real and they were so terrifying it was like being stuck in a horror film nearly every night. I was too scared to go to sleep. I would wake up checking for the bruises from being held down or beaten, grab something to protect myself from the people I had just heard in my house and those were just the mild ones.

I’ve promised myself that if they ever get really bad again I will explore the subject again with my dr and see if there any if solutions or help but for now I’ll just carry on hoping for a dreamless night.


Author: AdultsWithAustism

I decided I wanted to do something positive with my life and speak out about what it feels like to be an adult with autism.

One thought on “Autism and sleeping patterns”

  1. I can really relate to this post. GP offered mirtazapine to resolve sleeping issues but I have heard some negative reviews about brain fog during the day. Keep up the blog, its really good 🙂


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