We try to review a research article each week. Because we are both in Las Vegas this week for the Autism Research Institute (ARI) conference, we picked a research article related to one of our presentations: sleep–or the lack thereof. We are not talking about OUR lack of sleep (there is not much sleeping going on out here), we are talking about sleep issues for children with autism.
As if having a child with autism isn’t stressful enough, the condition brings along many other issues as well. For example, many children with autism also have gastrointestinal (GI) issues. Many children with autism also have feeding problems. And if those don’t wreak havoc on a family, try having all of that plus a child who won’t sleep.
Sleeping issues may be brought on by a number of variables including medical issues. Before trying any sleeping program with your child, be sure to rule out any underlying medical issue that may be affecting the sleep disorder. For example, some antibiotics cause insomnia. If your child is taking antibiotics, the medication could be causing the sleep issue.
Some environmental factors may be contributing to the sleep dysfunction. And that is the topic of today’s research review. The study we will review is titled, “Does television viewing cause delayed and/or irregular sleep–wake patterns?” The study authors are Asaoka, Fukuda, Tsutsui, and Yamazaki. The study was published in the Journal of Sleep and Biological Rhythms in 2007.
I like this study because they did not focus on participants with disabilities. Instead, they studied people from the random population. Eight participants were college age and the other eight were elderly. The researchers studied the participants for 2 weeks while the participants wore a wrist recorder and they self-recorded notes about their activities. The first week of the study, the researchers asked the participants to behave normally. The second week of the study, the researchers limited television watching to just 30 minutes per day.
The researchers reported that for elderly participants, their sleep-awake patterns did not change. However, for the college-age participants, sleep increased significantly. The researchers noted that while the sleep for elderly participants did not change, the motor movements at 1am decreased when television was limited and the researchers associated that with the decrease in television.
The researchers noted that “previous studies have revealed that exciting video display terminal tasks with a bright display suppresses the concentration of melatonin” which is definitely related to sleep. They also discussed the association with increasing body temperature and increased sleep so they stressed the importance of an evening bath.
In summary, if your child is having difficulty sleeping, we suggest that you cut out television, iPad, and video games at least 2 hours before bed time. Instead, use that time to settle in to a comfortable bedtime routine of bathing, reading, and family time.