Findings vary among studies, but it is generally agreed that individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families experience more sleep problems than most with estimates of significant sleep disturbance reported in 40%—80% of the population.
Insufficient sleep can lead to chronic sleep deprivation for both the individual and the family ro caregivers, increasing the stress and decreasing daily function.
Research is increasingly pointing to underlying medical issues as a significant factor in sleep disruption associated with ASD including:
- Gastroesophageal reflux
- Sleep apnea
- Night terrors
- Insufficient physical activity
- Circadian rhythm (natural wake/sleep cycles) disturbances
- Abnormal melatonin regulation
- Heightened sensory experiences: sensitivity to light, touch or sound