Anxiety can keep you awake at night (Picture: getty)

We’re a nation prone to sleep deprivation and if you have autism, it may be contributing towards your problems. A new survey conducted in partnership with the National Autistic Society found that autistic people have six hours or less of sleep a night on average, with anxiety a major contributor.

The research, conducted to coincide with Autism Acceptance Week, found four in five people with autism said they have difficulty falling asleep in the first place, while two out of three people said they experience restless sleep and waking up throughout the night.

Nearly half also said they struggle with waking up too soon in the morning. But why do autistic people struggle so much with sleep?

The research discovered that 70% of those surveyed feel that anxiety is the main cause of their sleep difficulties, with 52% saying school or work worries can cause a huge amount of anxiety.

Nearly half of respondents said they had sensory issues, which can make surroundings and environment feel over- or under-stimulating. Around a quarter (25%) of those surveyed said TV and internet use affected their sleep.

Also, if a bedtime routine is disrupted, it can make it a lot harder for someone with autism to get a truly restful sleep.

Sleep experts at Happy Beds gave some top tips to combat the sleep issues that autistic people face. Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with autism, they could still be useful.

Use blackout blinds

If your room is as dark as possible when it comes to your bedtime there is a bigger likelihood that sensory issues will be reduced.

Plus nearly 60% of people surveyed said that a dark room is essential for an ideal sleep environment with 41% of them noting the importance for blackout blinds.

Play background music

Playing music can really help those with autism as it allows a focus on something that can help create calmer thoughts if anxiety is a reason for not sleeping.

Music is a great distraction from anxious thoughts that can become present in the night time, such as school or work worries.

Use a weighted blanket

Many respondents said weighted blankets really helped to get a good night’s sleep, and this can be a great way to feel safe and secure in your bedroom.

Weighted blankets can give a person a sense of comfort and security, which in turn can help to reduce anxious thoughts. They are also really comfortable, but make sure that you choose a material which doesn’t create any sensory issues.

Create a bedtime schedule

If you find yourself feeling like a lack of routine is something you’re struggling with and that causes sleep disruption, then you perhaps need to become more regimented.

Writing yourself a calming bedtime schedule and sticking to it can really help your body wind down and switch off. Getting into this regular routine will make your sleep a lot more fulfilling.