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Spectrum: Autism Research News

illustration by
Federica Bordoni

(Scroll down to see the full list of articles in this special report.)

Many people are aware of autism’s core features — the unusual social interactions, the repetitive behaviors and restricted interests. Less appreciated are the problems people on the spectrum have getting a good night’s sleep. Many of them have trouble falling asleep, or wake up too early or for extended periods during the night. For the people on the spectrum who confront these problems, sleep doesn’t seem like a sidelight.

That’s why we’ve put the issue front and center in this special report on autism and sleep.

In various op-eds, scientists describe the behavioral consequences of lack of sleep, the role that electronic devices might play in disrupting sleep, and why it’s so difficult to study sleep in people with autism. Our news reports discuss the connection between autism and the body’s biological clock, and the importance of accounting for sleep in autism research.

The report also features tales of sleep deprivation from people on the spectrum and their families. And it spells out solutions. “How to get children with autism to sleep” details simple behavioral strategies that can help children with autism get the rest they need.

Our Spectrum Stories podcast features the voices of sleep researchers as well as those who are sleepless on the spectrum. And in a video newscast, the “Inside Scoop From the Autism Anchors: Sleep on the spectrum,” two scientists showcase the latest research on sleep and autism. We wish you, our readers, a good night’s sleep.

Featured Articles

spotlight on brain in doctor's office

Note to autism scientists: Control for z’s

by  /  13 November 2017

Differences in sleep and circadian rhythm may distort the results of autism studies.

Photo: two children sit on the top step of a flight of carpeted stairs, reading size by side.

How to get children with autism to sleep

by  /  13 November 2017

Insomnia troubles many children with autism. Luckily, research is awakening parents to some simple bedtime solutions.

Illustration shows child's head, with an EEG background, and a sleeping figure floating in the clouds above his head.

Sleep problems in autism, explained

by  /  6 February 2020

Many people with autism have difficulty falling and staying asleep, but there may be ways to help them.

Electronic glow may disrupt sleep for people on the spectrum

by  /  13 November 2017

Exposure to certain types of light at night may exacerbate sleep issues among people with autism.

Toddler girl sleeping with hair floating against black background.

How treating sleep may ease all forms of autism

by  /  31 October 2017

Behavioral interventions and medications can help children with autism-related syndromes sleep better, but the treatments must be tailored to the cause of each child’s sleep disturbance.

closed eye and wide open eye against sky

Autism may disrupt the body’s circadian clock

by  /  13 November 2017

Sleep problems in autism may stem from the same biological changes that underlie the core features of the condition.

Sleepless nights rouse behavioral problems in children with autism

by  /  13 November 2017

Children with autism who have sleep problems are often distracted, hyperactive, irritable and aggressive.

Why it’s difficult to study sleep in autism

by  /  13 November 2017

Five scientists describe the biggest challenges they face in solving sleep problems in people with autism.

Illustration of a room full of people napping, with a magnifying glass on one person who cannot fall asleep.

Divided autism community bonds over need to study sleep

by  /  17 October 2017

Autism researchers and funding agencies should turn their attention to sleep in autism — and its many connections to health, mood and behavior.

boy falls asleep eating cereal, and dreams of the moon

What’s the connection between autism and sleep?

by  /  20 January 2020

For many people with autism, a good night’s sleep is an elusive thing.

girl falling through the sky with bed, hat, pillow and teddy bear

Family circus starring child with autism runs all night

by  /  13 November 2017

Erin, a girl with autism, stayed awake talking, singing and playing acrobat — but not sleeping — for about four years.

Spectrum stories podcast logo.

Spectrum Stories: Where autism meets sleeplessness

by  /  13 November 2017

Scientists are trying to understand why people with autism so often have trouble sleeping, and how to help them.

Inside Scoop From the Autism Anchors: Sleep on the spectrum

by  /  13 November 2017

Two scientists describe the causes and consequences of sleep disruptions in autism — and what to do about them.

From The Archives

two sisters sleeping
Black mouse in part shadow
A room with two twin beds. A person sitting in one and a sheep sitting in the other.