For some children and teens with autism spectrum disorder, sleep can sometimes be a struggle. But good sleep is essential to good health and a good quality of life.
“While up to 40 percent of all children and teens will have sleep problems at some point during childhood, such problems usually lessen with age,” says lead guideline author Ashura Williams Buckley, MD, of the National Institute of Mental Health and a member of American Academy of Neurology (AAN).
“However, for children and teens with autism, sleep problems are more common and more likely to persist.”
To help families, neurologists and other healthcare providers make treatment decisions, the AAN has issued a new guideline based on careful review of available scientific studies to address four types of sleep problems: refusing to go to bed, stalling, or needing a parent or caregiver present until falling asleep; trouble falling asleep and staying asleep; sleeping for only short periods of time or not getting enough total sleep each night; as well as associated daytime behavior problems.
Published recently in Neurology, the medical journal of the AAN, the guideline is endorsed by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, Autism Speaks, the Child Neurology Society, and the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. The American Epilepsy Society has affirmed its value to epileptologists.
“Behavior-modification strategies are a good place to start because they don’t cost anything, there are no side effects and they’ve been shown to work for some people,” says Dr. Williams Buckley.
Learn more about autism at BrainandLife.org, home of the AAN’s free patient and caregiver magazine focused on the intersection of neurologic disease and brain health and follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Finding ways to improve sleep is essential. While sleep problems can intensify behavioral issues in children and teens with autism, good quality sleep can improve overall health and quality of life.