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Difficulty sleeping in autistic children caused by weaker brain waves

Sleep difficulties in autistic children would be caused by “more superficial” brain waves than non-autistic children according to a team of researchers at the Ben-Gurion University of Negev (BGU).

The study, published in the journal Sleep, describes the researchers’ discovery that autistic children with problems are more severe show brain activity which in turn indicates more superficial sleep, as Ilan Dinstein of the BGU explains.

“We also found a clear relationship between the severity of sleep disorders reported by parents and the reduction in sleep depth. It seems that children with autism, and particularly those whose parents have reported serious sleep problems, don’t get tired enough during the day, don’t develop enough pressure to sleep and don’t sleep as deeply,” Dinstein reports.

Sleep disorders in autistic children are nothing new: Previous studies had already shown that a good percentage of children with autism spectrum disorders also show some form of sleep disorder, in particular difficulty falling asleep or frequent awakenings.

In this study, Dinstein and colleagues examined the brain activity of 29 autistic children and 23 non-autistic children. The researchers found that the brain waves of autistic children were 25 percent weaker on average than those of non-autistic children, which indicates difficulty entering the deep sleep phase.

Martin Hill