A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

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

Spring, 2017 | Number 2, Volume 31

Treating sleep apnea can improve symptoms in kids with ASD

A new study from Japan indicates that correcting obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) can significantly improve their behavior. 

OSA, which affects up to ten percent of children, causes symptoms including snoring and gasping during sleep, bedwetting, daytime sleepiness, and behavior problems. Treatments for pediatric OSA include weight loss, nasal steroids, and adenotonsillectomy (removal of the tonsils and adenoids). 

The new study, by E. Murata and colleagues, evaluated the effects of adenotonsillectomy on 30 children with ASD and OSA. The children ranged in age from five to fourteen years. Before and after performing the surgeries, the researchers used the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) to evaluate the children’s behavior, comparing them to 24 children with ASD who did not have OSA. 

The researchers found that overall, CBCL scores improved significantly in the children who underwent surgery, while the controls exhibited no changes. Children who improved after surgery had significantly worse baseline scores on the CBCL than children whose behavior did not improve or deteriorated after surgery. 

The researchers conclude, “Early detection and treatment of children with OSA is essential to prevent behavioral problems and to support mental development.”


“Evaluation of behavioral change after adenotonsillectomy for obstructive sleep apnea in children with autism spectrum disorder,” E. Murata, I. Mohri, K. Kato-Nishimura, J. Iimura, M. Ogawa, M. Tachibana, Y. Ohno, and M. Taniike, Research in Developmental Disabilities, May 14, 2017, Vol. 65, 127-39. Address: I. Mohri, Department of Child Development, United Graduate School of Child Development, Osaka University, 2-2 Yamadaoka, Suita, Osaka, 5650871, Japan, [email protected].