Coronavirus causes ‘endless’ anxiety for people with autism, study finds

By Izzy Lewis
July 30 2020, 21.36

Four in five autistic people struggle to get a good night’s sleep, a new study has found.

Research from the National Autistic Society revealed that autistic people not only struggle to fall asleep in the evenings, but also to get settled and sleep for the scientifically recommended eight hours.

These issues have only been exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis, which has sparked anxiety in many of the 700,000 autistic people living in the UK.

Sleep expert Joy Richards said: “Anxiety is high at the minute with everything going on. Redundancies, furlough, health worries, childcare worries. The list is endless.”

According to the study, which was conducted in conjunction with Happy Beds, 68% of autistic people sleep for six hours or less a night.

A further 59% said that they wake during the night, with 48% reporting waking too early in the morning.

The seemingly never-ending bad news cycle also hasn’t helped, with anxiety coming out as the top cause of sleep difficulties cited by 70% of respondents. 

School or work worries (52%) and sensory issues (44%) were other popular problems.

Ms. Richards’ suggests that parents of autistic children should focus on ‘making the bedroom as dark as you possibly can’ in order to ensure a good night’s sleep, also suggesting weighted blankets and blackout blinds as potential treatments.

Carol Povey, director of the NAS’s Centre for autism, explained: “Lockdown has brought huge changes to everyday life and people’s routine.

“Because of this, many autistic people may find they have difficulty settling or winding down after a stressful day, waking up repeatedly during the night or might find their increased anxiety makes it really hard to relax and fall asleep. Adjusting to this new reality has been difficult for many.”

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