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Asperger's and 2e -- sleep problems 8 years old.

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

A few weeks ago our 8 year old daughter started to have a "night train" of thoughts and images, small videos, occasional math equations, and so forth, become so intense that it is hard for her to sleep. She said, and I am quoting her, that her "computer is going through past events and thoughts to find material for dreams" and that she cannot stop her brain from making this search until it is complete, which makes it hard to sleep.


 For the third time this week, she is falling asleep in the living room in front of the TV after moving downstairs at 11pm, unable to sleep because of her brain's inability to shut off. She has had a wonderful happy week, spending three hours a day in art camp with her favorite teacher and her best friend.  She is cheerful and happy in every other way, and the night train started really ramping up a few weeks ago. 


Our other child (NT) never mentioned such an experience, and frankly, this scares me (I have medical anxiety).


Is this typical?  I can't find anything about it, and "night train" is her own expression for this experience.   Another thing that really scares me is that tonight she told me she had a nightmare last night that an alien was invading and hurting her.  Naturally, I am worried that her other symptoms may be a sign of something physical going on, especially since her waking life has been so good.


She has developmental coordination disorder diagnosed, also Asperger's and very physically clumsy.  She is gifted and has auditory processing disorder. 


Is this typical for Asperger's syndrome? Or do I need to take her to a doctor to be more thoroughly evaluated.


Thank you for your help.  

post #2 of 15
My 6 year old son (Asperger's) has a long history of sleep trouble. Literally, it started from birth. He now takes something for sleep, without it, he will be up half the night brain going nonstop. As it is he still wakes up in the night and will make a statement or ask a question where it's obvious either he's been awake and thinking or his brain was going in his sleep.

I'd say it's normal, but that's just based on my son, lol!
post #3 of 15

THis is nothing to have anxiety about.  A lot of people have trouble sleeping - their thoughts keep going and going and don't let them fall asleep.  I am one of them.  Try some natural sleep remedies first.  Melatonin or valerian root along with a bedtime routine like a bath and massage her back when she lays down.  Make sure she gets enough physical exercize earlier in the day to help burn off that energy. 

post #4 of 15

There have also been times in my life (especially as a gifted Aspie) when my mind was working on a project, trying to figure out something, and I could not stop.  I would stay up late night after night, week after week, because I NEEDED to solve a problem (such as deciphering the structure and meaning of time itself.  I think I was like 12yo.).  Comes with the territory. 

post #5 of 15

Has she done any counselling before?  I was reading recently in a book about helping kids with anxiety, and one idea was using the metaphor of a train for their thoughts and moving the train to the right tracks.  Perhaps that is where she heard it.  Or she came up with it herself.  It does describe the issue well.

post #6 of 15

I have a kid who has this. If it's really bad, we give him a melatonin and have him listen to music.

post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thank you so much.  Earthroots, I also appreciate the adult gifted aspie perspective.   That is soothing.  Tjej, no, she has not had counseling. When she was first diagnosed, we went and talked with a counselor, who had a private interview with her and stated that she did not need counseling. OTOH, she has had a lot of PT, ST, and OT.  So perhaps they mentioned it in one of those places, or perhaps she came up with it herself. 


She actually illustrated it by taking her bowl of math dice (about 100 math dice from when we homeschooled) and put them in a thick, jumbled line, and explained that each die represented a thought, image, word, letter, video, number, or math equation, and said that the entire train, which is quite long, must go through her brain  to the end of the train before she can sleep.  She said the night train is jumbled and random. 


I will call her neurologist and ask about melatonin dosages. Hopefully, that will help. She can't swallow pills yet, please let me know if there is a preferred form or flavor.


She hates baths and massages, but she might enjoy some of that relaxing new age music, which she likes.    Thank you for all of your help. 

post #8 of 15

DS is 8 and has autism with hyperlexia, dyspraxia, and other issues.  He has a long history of sleep difficulties.


We give him 1mg of melatonin at night to help him fall asleep.  We use a sublingual tablet (but he chews it) by Source Naturals because he cannot swallow capsules. it comes in orange and peppermint flavors. DS likes the orange.


The melatonin helps him fall asleep, but does not keep him asleep.  Last year he started waking up every 2 hours, needing to be held. It was like having a 50 lb newborn.  We got him a weighted blanket to sleep under.  The blanket provides the constant deep pressure he craves and helps him stay asleep.  It has made a HUGE difference in our house!  I looked at a lot of different companies and went with Dream Catchers Weighted Blankets.  We have been thrilled with their service and product! http://www.weightedblanket.net/

post #9 of 15

Sounds like typical anxiety related issues which go hand-in-hand with Asperger's and sensory disorder. you might notice that the sleep troubles correlate with the sensory disorder. You can try drugs to help sleep, or try to reduce the anxiety. One key method of reducing anxiety in Aspies is to find out what foods make it worse for them. e.g., go off gluten for a week, go off packaged foods for a week (artificial flavors, colors and preservatives), go off milk products for a week. Sometimes, issues take more than a week to see results, but if you can possibly see any change (worse or better) within a week, then you're on to something!

post #10 of 15

This happens to everyone. I have even thought about things in my dreams while still sleeping! If it's such a distraction, have her listen to soft music or sing to herself, to tell herself her feelings or what will happen tomorrow. I disagree with the others about counseling, unless her thoughts and dreams are particularly troubling. Although, this does sound like she might possibly have anxiety. Explain to her that she will be alright, nothing will hurt her, etc. Eliminate any triggers that might be causing this. Allow her to read books or walk around the house if she wakes up, as long as she isn't too loud. Try melatonin, but only as a last resort

post #11 of 15
Originally Posted by Treasuremapper View Post

When she was first diagnosed, we went and talked with a counselor, who had a private interview with her and stated that she did not need counseling.



What children need at different stages is different, and I would take that comment with a grain of salt. The problems your DD is dealing with can be dealt with though Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), which is a specific type of talk therapy. This may or may not be the right time in her life for it, but my DD (who is now 15 and has Asperger's) benefited a great deal from this type of work when she was about 12-13. It is the process of learning to control *how* you think about things -- learning to choose one's thoughts.


I think that part of the reason that there isn't a clear consensus on this thread is that this is such a difficult issue for many SN kids, and while there are lots of things to try, their isn't a list of things that consistently work.


We have done so, so much work on this over the years, but my DD still often has trouble sleeping. It is much worse when she is nervous about something, and a lot of things make her nervous that don't make most people nervous. Then being over tired makes her anxiety worse, and when her anxiety is worse, her sleep problems get worse. It can be a downward cycle.


Being able to read at bed time is very helpful for her. Having fish in her room is very helpful (both to watch while she goes to sleep, and for the background noise). Getting plenty of fresh air and exercise is helpful.


Learning CBT techniques has helped as well.


But it is still an issue. Now it is usually a livable issues, though.

post #12 of 15

My son has aspergers and adhd and has the same experiences.

He explains it as not being able to shut off his brain. He has thoughts where when he shuts his eyes he almost sees things running like a film. This problem is definately worse if he's anxious. We now leave the television on low for him every night so that his mind is distracted, he half hears whats on the tv and its enough to keep his mind from racing with other thoughts. This wont suit everyone its a case of finding out what will relax or work for her.

post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 

I want to report back about melatonin.  First, Welshman, thank you for sharing your son's similar experience. Some day, we will have a clearer understanding about what is going on with Asperger's diagnoses, and all of this will make sense.


Two weeks into melatonin, and I have to say, it has changed our lives.  My husband is a self-diagnosed aspie, and he was keeping me up all night long, waking up at least three or four times a night.   That, plus our aspie daughter  not falling asleep in the first place.  I did not even realize how much sleep deprivation was affecting me until we got some sleep.


Two weeks into melatonin and crankiness has dropped by 80 percent.  People are not flipped out and exhausted.  People are calm and functional. I'm not even taking melatonin, since I fall asleep almost immediately unless something is going on.  I am  just giving it to my husband and daughter.


Thank you so much for your help and support.

post #14 of 15
Thread Starter 

Nerdmomma, Cynthias, and Lollybrat, thank you. We are using source naturals orange sublinguals.  Linda, I will look into CBT, that is a good idea.  Cynthias, we are just about to start with a third nutritionist who is recommended by her endocrinologist, so we are going to try some nutritional approaches, including GFCF. Now that you mention it, the art teacher did give out candy and treats during class!

post #15 of 15

just wanted to add that nightwaking and falling asleep can be related to apnea - my doc gave us nasonex to use and it really helped.  If you notice snoring at all, you might want to get it checked out - it is quite common especially in kids with tonsils.

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