Sleepless on the spectrum

Featured articles

spotlight on brain in doctor's office

Note to autism scientists: Control for z’s

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

By Nicholette Zeliadt
13 November 2017 | 6 min read
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

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

By Claudia Wallis
13 November 2017 | 19 min read
Illustration shows child's head, with an EEG background, and a sleeping figure floating in the clouds above his head.
Spectrum Microphone

Sleep problems in autism, explained

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

By Hannah Furfaro
6 February 2020 | 6 min read

Electronic glow may disrupt sleep for people on the spectrum

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

By Christopher Colwell
13 November 2017 | 6 min read
Toddler girl sleeping with hair floating against black background.
Spectrum Microphone

How treating sleep may ease all forms of autism

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.

By Shafali Spurling Jeste
31 October 2017 | 5 min read
closed eye and wide open eye against sky

Autism may disrupt the body’s circadian clock

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

By Veronique Greenwood
13 November 2017 | 5 min read
Spectrum Microphone

Sleepless nights rouse behavioral problems in children with autism

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

By Kristin Sohl
13 November 2017 | 5 min read
Illustration of a room full of people napping, with a magnifying glass on one person who cannot fall asleep.
Spectrum Microphone

Divided autism community bonds over need to study sleep

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

By Sara Luterman
17 October 2017 | 5 min read

What’s the connection between autism and sleep?

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

By Rebecca Horne
20 January 2020 | 4 min watch
girl falling through the sky with bed, hat, pillow and teddy bear

Family circus starring child with autism runs all night

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

By Rebecca Horne
13 November 2017 | 3 min read
Spectrum stories podcast logo.
Spectrum Microphone

Spectrum Stories: Where autism meets sleeplessness

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

By Jacob Brogan
13 November 2017 | 1 min read

Inside Scoop From the Autism Anchors: Sleep on the spectrum

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

By Spectrum
13 November 2017 | 1 min read

From the archives

Wide awake: Why children with autism struggle with sleep

Half of children who have autism have trouble falling or staying asleep, which may make their symptoms worse. Scientists are just beginning to explore what goes wrong in the midnight hour.

By Ingfei Chen
7 October 2015 | 16 min read

Exploring sleep in children with autism

Many children with autism have problems with sleep, which can worsen symptoms of the disorder. A better understanding of sleep in autism may help reveal the mechanisms of autism and point to potential treatments, say Ruth O'Hara and Michelle Primeau.

By Michelle Primeau, Ruth O’Hara
30 July 2013 | 6 min read
two sisters sleeping

Melatonin gains momentum as sleep aid for people with autism

A new formulation of the hormone melatonin seems to improve sleep in some children with autism.

By Bahar Gholipour
10 November 2017 | 6 min read

Short sleep is unhappy bedfellow for autism features

The fewer hours of sleep children with autism get, the more severe their features, according to a study of more than 2,700 children with the condition.

By Bahar Gholipour
8 May 2017 | 4 min read

Body clock genes may set pace for sleep issues in autism

People with autism are twice as likely to carry alterations in genes that regulate the circadian clock, or the body’s sleep-wake cycle as those without the disorder. The findings may help explain why most children with autism have trouble with sleep.

By Rachel Nuwer
19 June 2015 | 3 min read
Black mouse in part shadow

Mutation tied to autism deprives male mice of their sleep

A DNA deletion linked to autism causes male mice, but not females, to have trouble falling asleep.

By Jessica Wright
23 November 2016 | 3 min read

Tricks to treat Angelman syndrome may lie in ‘clock cells’

A newly discovered phenomenon in cells that regulate the sleep-wake cycle may provide clues for how to treat two autism-related conditions.

By Jessica Wright
4 July 2016 | 4 min read
A room with two twin beds. A person sitting in one and a sheep sitting in the other.

Autism in fragile X syndrome tied to seizures, sleep problems

In people with fragile X syndrome, autism is often accompanied by seizures, trouble falling or staying asleep and anxiety.

By Hannah Furfaro
25 October 2017 | 3 min read

Dim light casts shadow on mouse sleep, behavior

Exposure to a dim light at night disrupts sleep and worsens repetitive behaviors and social difficulties in a mouse model of autism.

By Nicholette Zeliadt
28 July 2017 | 3 min read

Explore more from The Transmitter

Research image of a variety of brain atlases.

New ‘decoder’ tool translates functional neuroimaging terms across labs

The compendium of brain-parcellation atlases makes it possible to compare large-scale network data, which often involves different and overlapping network names.

By Holly Barker
23 July 2024 | 4 min read
Research image showing connectivity in brain regions in female mice with and without a UBE3A variant.

CNTNAP2 variants; trait trajectories; sensory reactivity

Here is a roundup of autism-related news and research spotted around the web for the week of 22 July.

By Jill Adams
23 July 2024 | 2 min read

Women are systematically under-cited in neuroscience. New tools can change that.

An omitted citation in a high-profile paper led us to examine our own practices and to help others adopt tools that promote citation diversity.

By Anne Churchland, Felicia Davatolhagh
22 July 2024 | 5 min read