Project Detail
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Office of Autism Research Coordination (OARC) logo

Characterizing sleep disorders in autism spectrum disorder  

Sleep problems are a common feature of autism spectrum disorders. Impaired sleep causes significant distress to both patient and caregiver and may lead to, and exacerbate, the cognitive and behavioral core symptoms of autism. Sleep disturbances can reflect a wide range of sleep disorders, such as insomnia, circadian rhythm disturbance, periodic limb movement, sleep apnea and rapid eye movement sleep disturbance. Some of these can be effectively alleviated through treatment. Characterizing the type and severity of sleep disorders in people with autism is essential for an effective treatment approach. Still, in this patient population, it has proven difficult to obtain objective overnight measures of sleep by polysomnogram, which involves connecting the person to electrodes that monitor many body functions during sleep. Using a combination of standard and novel objective assessments of sleep, Ruth O'Hara and her colleagues at Stanford University aim to characterize the range and type of sleep disorders experienced by 80 participants on the autism spectrum, aged 6 to18 years. They also plan to examine the impact of various sleep disorders of differing severity on cognitive and behavioral symptoms. Finally, their work aims to improve upon current approaches to polysomnography, including a single-channel sleep electrode (for encephalography) and a SensorBed Mattress, which may be a more user-friendly method to assess sleep disturbances. The researchers have significant expertise in the area of sleep disorders and their impact on cognitive processes in older patients with cognitive impairment and dementia. O'Hara serves on the sleep disorders in psychiatric illnesses workgroup for the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. She plans to extend her research on sleep and cognition to the field of autism. Project Status


Funder Simons Foundation
Fiscal Year Funding $37,354.50
Current Award Period 2010-2012
Project Number 177985
Principal Investigator O'Hara, Ruth
Received ARRA Funding? No
Strategic Plan Question Question 2: How Can I Understand What Is Happening? (Biology)
Subcategory Co-occurring Conditions
Strategic Plan Objective Green dot: Objective has greater than or equal to the recommended funding. 2SE. Launch three studies that target the underlying biological mechanisms of co-occurring conditions with autism, including seizures/epilepsy, sleep disorders, wandering/elopement behavior, and familial autoimmune disorders, by 2012. IACC Recommended Budget: $9,000,000 over 5 years.
Federal or Private? Private
Institution Stanford University
State/Country California
Web Link 1 Characterizing sleep disorders in autism spectrum disorder (External web link)
Web Link 2 No URL available.
Web Link 3 No URL available.
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