Understanding sleep difficulties in children

Understanding the biological and behavioural attributes leading to sleep difficulties in children on the autism spectrum

Sleep is recognised as a fundamental contributor to health and wellbeing outcomes. Research indicates that children on the autism spectrum are twice as likely to have sleep issues as non-autistic children or those with other developmental conditions.

The main objectives for this project are to:

  1. define the sleep difficulties in children on the autism spectrum aged 2-17 years, including sleep latency, waking after sleep onset and sleep duration
  2. evaluate the relationship between sleep difficulties and clinical phenotype including autism symptom severity, cognitive level, gender, sensory profile, gastrointestinal dysfunction, epilepsy, and co-occurring conditions such as anxiety
  3. measure melatonin and melatonin metabolites in urine samples and identify genetic influences that might contribute to abnormal melatonin metabolism in children on the spectrum
  4. evaluate the interactions between sleep and melatonin profile and phenotypic presentation.

The long term objective is to analyse the entire Australian Autism Biobank cohort which will inform the development of sleep management strategies specifically for this population and targeted therapy to help with the child’s sleep difficulties.

Early Years
Project code
Project Leader(s)
  • Anne Masi, University of New South Wales
Project status