Sleep, Routines, and Challenging Behavior in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

By: Marlena N. Smith

In a recent study, Henderson, Barry, Bader, and Jordan identified correlations between sleep and challenging behavior in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Sleep disturbances are common amongst children with ASD. Henderson et al. set out to investigate relationships between sleep, routines, and challenging behavior in children with ASD as compared to children with typical development.

Participants included 58 children with ASD and 57 children with typical development, ages 6 to 12 years. The participants were evaluated via caregiver report on measures of general routines, bedtime routines, sleep hygiene (i.e., bedtime routines, caffeine intake, daily naps, and sleep setting), sleep quality, and behavior.

Results revealed that both sleep quality and sleep hygiene were positively related to consistency of bedtime routines and negatively related to challenging behaviors in the participants with ASD. While lower consistency of routines correlated with greater degrees of challenging behavior in both the participants with ASD and typical development, only the participants with typical development demonstrated a correlation between greater consistency of routines and lower degrees of challenging behavior.

The findings support a relationship between sleep, routines, and challenging behavior in children with ASD. As many children with ASD experience sleep disturbances, this is an important area of research that warrants further investigation.


Henderson, J. A., Barry, T. D., Bader, S. H., & Jordan, S. S. (in press). The relation among sleep, routines, and externalizing behavior in children with an autism spectrum disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2010.09.003

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