Feb 18, 2016 6:43 PM

Study: Certain behavior problems in children with autism may be linked to trouble sleeping

Certain behavior problems in kids on the autism spectrum appear linked to a lack of sleep rather than autism itself.

A new study found that children with autism who wake up frequently during the night - a common problem -- have more difficulty with their behavior during the day, according to an online article on Psych Central.

The researchers found children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder who also had trouble sleeping were more likely to exhibit behaviors such as aggression, irritability, and trouble paying attention during the day. Children who awakened frequently throughout the night had the most trouble regulating their behavior.

“Past research has found that children with ASD often have trouble sleeping at night. Many children with ASD also struggle with regulating their behavior during the day,” said Dr. Micah Mazurek, assistant professor of health psychology in the University of Missouri School of Health Professions and the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders and co-author of the study.

“Research on children without ASD has found that lack of sleep can contribute to these behavioral problems. In this study, we were specifically interested in whether sleep is related to challenging behavior in children with ASD.”

While the issue will continue to be studied, Mazurek says the results suggest doctors and parents should routinely screen for sleep problems in youngsters with ASD and make an effort to address them.

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