Autism: Bed Sheets and Sleep Problems

06 Apr

Since I was a young child, I have found it essential when I am trying to sleep to be fully covered up with my blanket. If my blanket is not up to, and wrapped around my chin, I can’t even relax, let alone sleep. I imagine that part of the reason for this is that I had a strong fear (and numerous nightmares) about vampires when I was young. However, having outgrown that fear, I still need my blankets wrapped around my neck in order to sleep.

But it isn’t only my neck that must be covered, for if air touches any part of my body except my face, I cannot sleep. More than being unable to sleep, my skin becomes irritated. This means, for me, that even on the hottest days of summer, I have to sleep with at least a sheet covering me. Certainly a sensory issue in this case, and not the only one.

sensory solutions

I can handle air on my skin while I am awake. It is only when I am sleeping, or trying to sleep, that it bothers me. As I cannot remember when I started feeling this way, I believe it has been an issue most of my life.

About twelve years ago, shortly after I was married, I had severe pains in my back from April to September (it turned out this was a side effect of antihistamines, as it was that year that my grass allergy began.) Until that point, I had always slept on my side, but the only position that was remotely comfortable that year was sleeping on my stomach. After those six months, it became such a habit, that I have not been able to sleep in any other position since.

While sleeping on my stomach, I have my arms drawn up under myself, with my hands pulling down the blankets around my chin. However, if any part of my hand is uncovered, the air flowing around them will also keep me awake.

Of course, sleeping on my arms means that the circulation is often cut off, and many times throughout the night, I have to switch from one direction to another, and stretch out my arms, in order to get the blood flowing again.

As if that weren’t enough to disturb my sleep, any wrinkle in the sheets. Any twist in the blanket. Any fabric touching me that isn’t “just right,” will also wake me up and annoy me. In that instance (and it often happens multiple times in a night) I have to get up, and remake the bed, before I can get back to sleep again.

For that reason as well, the clothes I wear to bed are also essential to my ability to sleep. If they are too loose, or the wrong material, or have any tendency to twist at all (and considering I am tossing and turning all night, it is very likely they will) they will also wake me up and keep me awake. However, if they are too tight, they cause my skin to itch, and that interferes with my sleep just as much.

If my hair touches my face, or wraps around my throat (and being long, it frequently does) that will also keep me awake and irritated. So my hair has to be tied back, and as I wrap the sheets or blankets around myself, I toss my hair on top of the blanket, hoping to keep it off of me. Most nights I seriously consider shaving off all of my hair, it gets that bad.

Above all of this, if I feel as if I am “floating” (a frequent feeling for me, as if I am not quite anchored to the earth with gravity as everything else is) or I feel pinned down (also common, as I share my bed with my husband, dog, and cat) sleep will flee from me as well. If I am awake enough to think, I can solve the pinned down feeling by moving one of the animals – however, often my problem solving skills are not great when I am tired, and I just lie there frustrated and unable to move.

For the floating issue, I have my weighted blanket. That helps a lot when I can use it, however my back pain issues often prevent me from using that solution when I am trying to sleep (when I am lying on my back, it helps me, but when I am on my stomach, it seems to cause further back pain.)

And then, when all of these sensory issues are removed, I still have to contend with my thoughts – which, due to my Autism, tend to fixate, repeat, and become obsessive (especially when I am trying to get to sleep.)

And people wonder why I have so much trouble sleeping, and so much trouble getting up in the mornings!


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One response to “Autism: Bed Sheets and Sleep Problems

  1. kazst

    April 6, 2016 at 11:07 am

    My sensory issues are a little different, but the end result is the same. I don’t sleep well, and I wake up several times during the night. Sometimes I think some of my other struggles wouldn’t be so bad if I could just get a decent night’s sleep on a regular basis. Sleep deprivation has serious consequences.

    Liked by 1 person


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