A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Winter, 2020 | Number 1, Volume 34

ASD sleep problems linked to shallow brain waves

Many children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have sleep disturbances, and a new study from Israel suggests that this problem is linked to shallower brain waves during sleep. 

Ayelet Arazi and colleagues analyzed overnight electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings performed during sleep evaluations of 29 children with ASD and 23 neurotypical children. They report, “Children with ASD exhibited significantly weaker slow-wave activity power, shallower slow-wave activity slopes, and a decreased proportion of slow-wave sleep in comparison to controls…. Furthermore, slow wave activity power of children with ASD was significantly, negatively correlated with the time of their sleep onset in the lab and at home, as reported by parents.” 

The brain waves of children with ASD were on average 25% shallower than those of neurotypical children. The difference between controls and children with ASD was largest during the first two hours of sleep, during which periods of deep sleep normally occur. 

Senior author Ilan Dinstein comments, “It appears that children with autism, and especially those whose parents reported serious sleep issues, do not tire themselves out enough during the day, do not develop enough [biological] pressure to sleep, and do not sleep as deeply.”


“Reduced sleep pressure in young children with autism,” Ayelet Arazi, Gal Meiri, Dor Danan, Analya Michaelovski, Hagit Flusser, Idan Menashe, Ariel Tarasiuk, and Ilan Dinstein, Sleep, December 18, 2019 (online). Address: Ayelet Arazi, Ben-Gurion University (room 123, building 97), 1 Ben-Gurion Blvd., Beer Sheva, 8410501, Israel, [email protected].