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American Academy of Neurology Offers New Sleep Improvement Guidelines for Children With Autism

A full night’s sleep is essential for good health and a high quality of life. Unfortunately, sleep disturbances are a common challenge for many children and teens with autism spectrum disorder. To address this problem, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) has issued new guidelines focusing on four types of sleep-related problems: refusing to go to bed, or needing a caregiver or parent present until falling asleep; trouble falling asleep and staying asleep; sleeping for only a short period of time; and associate behavior problems during the day. According to a report by, the guidelines have been endorsed by American Academy of Sleep Medicine, Autism Speaks, the Child Neurology Society, and the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. The guideline suggests that children with autism may benefit from behavioral treatments, such as setting up a consistent sleep routine with regular bedtimes and wake times, choosing a bedtime close to when the child gets sleepy, and prohibiting use of electronic devices close to bedtime. Since many factors may contribute to sleep challenges, a knowledgeable doctor should conduct a thorough evaluation and address problems caused by medications or medical conditions first. “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,” lead guideline author Ashura Williams Buckley, MD, of the National Institute of Mental Health and a member of American Academy of Neurology (AAN), was quoted as saying. “However, for children and teens with autism, sleep problems are more common and more likely to persist.”

The guideline also suggests that healthcare providers should consider prescribing the sleep hormone melatonin as a safe and effective treatment to help relieve sleep difficulties in children with autism. No evidence was found to suggest that weighted blankets or specialized mattress technologies improve sleep. Source:


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