Lack Of Sleep Could Be The Cause Of Behavioral Issues In Autistic Children, Study Shows

Many parents of children on the autism spectrum are aware of their child’s sleeping difficulties. A new study shows that those sleep problems may actually be at the root of behavior issues that include attention problems, aggression, and irritability.

Sleeping child with his toy bear.

The study from the University of Missouri School of Health Professions and the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders looked at the prevalence of difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep in a population of kids on the autism spectrum. Then, they correlated these sleep issues with occurrences of behavioral problems during the day, specifically tracking aggression, hyperactivity, inattention, or irritability.

The results showed a definite connection between sleep problems at night and behavioral problems while the children were awake. As the study showed, children who woke up repeatedly during the night had particular difficulties maintaining control of their behavior, issues with aggression, problems paying attention, and irritability.

kid shouting and crying during a temper tantrum

The researchers suggest parents of kids with autism monitor their children’s sleeping. If the children are displaying particular behavioral issues, perhaps a lack of sleep is partially the cause. Parents may want to seek out professional screening for sleep issues to help forestall behavioral problems.

The next step in the research will be to figure out what is causing the sleep problems. If treatments can be found for the sleep problems, possibly the behavior problems of the children can be minimized.


Helping any child get to sleep at night can be a difficult task. Putting a child with autism to sleep for the night is even more difficult at times, and, as the University of Missouri study points out, it could be important for helping your child have a successful day when he wakes up. Check here for tips on how to help your child fall asleep successfully.

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