Media use, sleep problems linked in children with autism spectrum disorders

 
By Laura Mize • Published: February 5th, 2014
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
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Waging the bedtime versus T-V battle is a rite of passage for parents.

Sometimes, getting your little ones to turn away from the screen and put on pajamas without a fight seems impossible. New research published in the journal Pediatrics shows this battle is especially important for parents of children with autism spectrum disorders. The researchers uncovered a strong link between disrupted sleep for children with these disorders and T-Vs, computers and video games.

The study was based on information from parents about kids’ sleep, and how often they accessed media. Parents of boys with autism spectrum disorders or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder participated, as well as parents of boys with no developmental challenges.

The results were pretty clear. Having video game access in the bedroom caused sleep disturbances in all boys. Having a T-V or computer in the room was linked most strongly to sleep trouble in kids on the autism spectrum. Interestingly, researchers did not find that link in boys with ADHD or those with no developmental problems. On a related note, boys on the autism spectrum also showed the strongest link between the amount of time spent on video games and disrupted sleep.

Despite these associations, this study doesn’t prove that using media causes sleep problems. It only shows that relationships exist for some boys. However, the researchers do offer possible explanations for the media-sleep link in boys with an autism spectrum disorder. They noted that previous research shows these kids tend to have a harder time disengaging from media on screens. They’re also more likely to have low levels of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.

With these two factors, it’s easy to see why kids with autism or a related disorder may have trouble sleeping after a night of video game play.