Sleep in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Margaret C. Souders
  • Stefanie Zavodny
  • Whitney Eriksen
  • Rebecca Sinko
  • James Connell
  • Connor Kerns
  • Roseann Schaaf
  • Jennifer Pinto-Martin
Sleep Disorders (P Gehrman, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Sleep Disorders


The purposes of this paper are to provide an overview of the state of the science of sleep in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), present hypotheses for the high prevalence of insomnia in children with ASD, and present a practice pathway for promoting optimal sleep. Approximately two thirds of children with ASD have chronic insomnia, and to date, the strongest evidence on promoting sleep is for sleep education, environmental changes, behavioral interventions, and exogenous melatonin. The Sleep Committee of the Autism Treatment Network (ATN) developed a practice pathway, based on expert consensus, to capture best practices for screening, identification, and treatment for sleep problems in ASD in 2012. An exemplar case is presented to integrate key constructs of the practice pathway and address arousal and sensory dysregulation in a child with ASD and anxiety disorder. This paper concludes with next steps for dissemination of the practice pathway and future directions for research of sleep problems in ASD.


Autism spectrum disorder Sleep Insomnia Hyperarousal Behavioral intervention Biological rhythms 



The corresponding author completed a T32 postdoctoral sleep fellowship with Dr. Allan I. Pack at the University of Pennsylvania. The case presentation in this manuscript was a participant in a study funded by the Department of Defense, Office of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program, 2013 AR120166.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Margaret C. Souders, Stefanie Zavodny, Whitney Eriksen, Rebecca Sinko, James Connell, Connor Kerns, Roseann Schaaf, and Jennifer Pinto-Martin report that the case presented in this review manuscript was a participant in a study funded by a grant from the Department of Defense.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

The case presented in the article was part of a research study funded by the Department of Defense and approved by the IRB at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (IRB 13-010092). Informed consent from the parents and assent from the child were obtained.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margaret C. Souders
    • 1
  • Stefanie Zavodny
    • 1
  • Whitney Eriksen
    • 1
  • Rebecca Sinko
    • 2
  • James Connell
    • 3
  • Connor Kerns
    • 3
  • Roseann Schaaf
    • 2
  • Jennifer Pinto-Martin
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Pennsylvania School of NursingPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Thomas Jefferson UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.AJ Drexel Autism InstitutePhiladelphiaUSA

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