Behavioral interventions for sleep problems in children with autism spectrum disorders: current findings and future directions

J Pediatr Psychol. 2011 Oct;36(9):1017-29. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsr044. Epub 2011 Jul 10.


Objective: To examine behavioral interventions for sleep problems in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Methods: A systematic review evaluating all published studies examining the effectiveness of behavioral treatment of sleep problems in children with ASD is presented.

Results: Based on the Chambless criteria for treatment efficacy, both standard extinction and scheduled awakenings met criteria for possibly efficacious interventions for sleep problems in children with ASD. Some positive outcomes have been reported, but there has not been enough research examining graduated extinction, faded bedtime, stimulus fading and chronotherapy to make any firm conclusions regarding treatment efficacy for children with ASD.

Conclusions: Although more rigorous research is required in order for any sleep interventions for children with ASD to be considered probably efficacious or well-established, the current literature should be used to guide clinical decisions and direct research questions.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / complications*
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / psychology
  • Extinction, Psychological
  • Family
  • Humans
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / complications
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / psychology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome