Losing sleep: How researchers miss a key contributor to autism

Published by: Spectrum
Written by:  LUCIA PEIXOTO, ANNETTE ESTES

Most people with autism — up to 86 percent — have trouble sleeping1. Their sleep problems often include the hallmarks of insomnia: difficulty falling asleep, waking up multiple times during the night and getting less sleep than average. Animal models of autism display these same signs, suggesting that sleep problems may arise from fundamental mechanisms conserved across species2. But scientists do not yet know what these mechanisms are, much less why insomnia is so prevalent in autistic people.

Autism researchers and clinicians commonly refer to insomnia as a comorbidity, meaning that it only accompanies autism. However, we suggest that doctors and scientists may need to consider it as an integral part of the condition and begin to study sleep in more rigorous ways — for instance, using technology in place of surveys and questionnaires. Click here to read the rest of the story.

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