Project Area: To explore some of the severe sleep related issues that children with autism experience.
Lead Researcher: Dr. Nicky Edelstyn, Senior Lecturer in Cognitive Neuroscience
Institution: Keele University
Description: This project was a result of a Research Autism forum on sleep problems in autism and was designed to explore some of the severe sleep related issues that children with autism experience. Working with the University of Keele and the National Autistic Society an online database of sleep research is now available to clinicians, researchers and parents alike.
Impact: This project provides researchers with a greater understanding of the character and prevalence of sleep problems in individuals with autism. It also highlighted a number of key areas that warrant further research which will further knowledge and understanding whilst advancing the scientific research field.
Funding: The sleep database project was partly funded by the NAS (National Autistic Society).
Database: Research Autism Sleep Database
Richard Mills, Research Director at Research Autism said:
"Research Autism identified that there was an urgent need for a programme of research to investigate sleep disorder in autisms, their prevalence, associated risks factors and appropriate ways of helping those affected. As part of a range of initiatives, a leading research team consisting of a developmental psychologist (Dr Claire Fox), a health psychologist (Professor Michael Murray) and a neuropsychologist (Dr Nicky Edelstyn) will thoroughly examine current research regarding sleep disorders and how these relate to autistic conditions. This will result in a comprehensive database that will include prevalence; the main risk factors; sleep characteristics; how sleep problems affect daytime behaviour; the effects on the children and families and details of different types of interventions designed to improve the quality of sleep.
It is thought that some sleep problems may have a genetic basis and that children do not develop regular sleep patterns due to the faulty development of the circadian rhythm. Sleep interventions currently under investigation include the use of the hormone Melatonin and behavioural and sensory approaches, including the use of weighted blankets. With this new project we will have an online Sleep Database of valuable information reflecting international research. This in turn will inform parents, health professionals and other researchers, via our website
Geoffrey Maddrell, Chairman of Research Autism said:
"Once developed, the sleep database will be of enormous benefit to many people. For researchers it will provide a greater understanding of the character and prevalence of the disorder; aid in the development of hypotheses for more targeted neuropsychological and behavioural research; and assist in the development of a screening tool for identifying those most at risk. And for professionals and family members it will provide invaluable information on appropriate interventions. The sleep database illustrates exactly what Research Autism is all about; we identify the problem with the aid of the people affected; then develop and evaluate interventions, where none exist; and finally we disseminate the information widely, aiming to greatly improve the quality of life of the thousands of children and adults with autism."