Israeli Researchers Connect Sleep Difficulties in Children With Autism to Unusual Brain Wave Pattern
Children on the autism spectrum face a variety of challenges, ranging from extreme sensitivity to touch and sound to difficulties with social interaction and verbal communication. Many children with autism also experience significant difficulties falling or staying asleep.
A new study conducted by researchers at Ben-Gurion University’s National Autism Research Center has found that the brain waves of individuals on the autism spectrum are shallower during the first part of the night, suggesting difficulty falling into a deep sleep.
According to a report this month by Breaking Israel News, the researchers are now planning follow-up studies to explore ways of generating deeper sleep, such as increasing physical activities during the day, behavioral therapies, and the use of medical cannabis. The results of the study were published in the medical journal Sleep, under the title “Reduced Sleep Pressure in Young Children with Autism.”
The research was led by Professor Ilan Dinstein, who, together with his colleagues, examined the brain activity of 29 children with autism and 23 children without autism. The study found that the brain waves of children with autism are, on average, 25% weaker than those of typically developing children, suggesting they have trouble entering deep sleep. Statistically, sleep disturbances are extremely common among children with autism, with 40 to 60% experiencing them in some form.
“It appears that autistic children – and especially those whose parents reported serious sleep problems – do not tire themselves out enough during the day or develop enough pressure to sleep and don’t sleep as deeply,” Dinstein said. He added that he and his colleagues “found a clear relationship between the severity of sleep disturbances as reported by the parents and the reduction in sleep depth. Children with more serious sleep issues showed brain activity that indicated more shallow and superficial sleep.”