Most of us know that Epsom salts are a good way to soothe aching muscles after a hard workout, but why do they work so well to help autistic children fall asleep and stay asleep?
It’s all in the chemistry. Epsom salts is just a product name for the chemical compound magnesium sulfate. Children and adults with autism tend to be deficient in both magnesium and sulphate, which can cause a host of health problems, especially poor sleep.
Magnesium is required by the body to create serotonin, which is used by the body to regulate appetite, mood and sleep. Sure, you can give your child serotonin supplements, but giving them the nutrients they need to produce their own is healthier and more effective.
Magnesium also helps alleviate anxiety, control blood sugar, support muscular and nervous systems and regulate the activity of more than 300 enzymes in the body. All of these body functions are important in getting a good night’s sleep.
Those with autism are also often deficient in sulphate, which is necessary for the body to remove toxins and heavy metals. When toxins build up in the body, particularly the brain, it causes hyperactivity, irritability, sensory overload that results in excessive stimming, and difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. The Feingold elimination diet goes into great detail about the phenol-sulfotransferase system and sulfate deficiency if you’re interested in learning more about the medical science behind autism and sulphate deficiency … but if you haven’t had more than three hours of sleep a night for the last five years, I’d suggest just trying the ding dang bath and worrying about heavy reading after you’ve had a good night’s sleep!
You can purchase Epsom salts at your local drug store, Walmart or on Amazon. However, make sure you purchase pharmaceutical grade Epsom salts and avoid those with added scents, which could counterproductively irritate the nervous system, resulting in less sleep, not more. We use this brand from Amazon.
Here’s how to maximize the benefits of Epsom salts: add one cup per 60 lbs of body weight to a warm bath. Most kids like the tactile stimulation of playing with the salts as they dissolve. Epsom salts are absorbed through the skin, so use a wash cloth to gently rub your child’s skin to open up the pores for better absorption. Make sure your child is in the bath for 15-20 minutes before using any soap or shampoo. When we started these baths, we used Epsom salts every night. Now that Tosh is a good sleeper and increasingly prefers showers, we’ve cut back to just a couple of times a week.
Finally, remember that autism is genetic, so you may also be deficient in magnesium and sulphate. If you struggle to fall asleep at night and stay asleep, you would likely benefit from an Epsom salts bath too. I know it sure does work for me.
Good night and sleep tight!
Heather Anderson is a blissfully happy autism mom and lover of life in Southern California who is on a mission to help autism parents rediscover their happy place.
Please join me on this beautiful autism journey. The Autism Oasis is a fun, supportive and educational community where your personal development is just as important as your children's. You are more than just a caregiver!