Skip navigation

Calls to Action

Helping our Teens with Autism Sleep

This post is by child neurologist and sleep specialist Beth Malow, MS, MD, of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, a member of the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network.

When young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) don't sleep well, it affects how they function during the day as well as the entire family. Teens (and their families) are also affected by not sleeping well! The Sleep Workgroup of the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network has developed a new sleep tool kit aimed at parents of teens with ASD. This tool kit, entitled "Sleep Strategies for Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder," guides parents through basic ideas for improving sleep in their teens. These include teaching simple habits and routines, such as paying attention to light and exercise, as well as food and caffeine intake. Paying attention to the evening routine, including winding down and limiting "screen time" are also discussed.  Examples of a bedtime routine and bedtime routine checklist are presented, along with the elements of a comfortable sleep setting.

While the same types of strategies that work with younger children also work with teens, it is challenging for parents to think about how to modify these for teens as their children grow older. It is also easy to get out of the habit of practicing these sleep strategies! Therefore, we encourage parents of teens with ASD to review the tool kit, even if they have previously used the Sleep Tool Kit in their younger children.

This tool kit is available for free download here

Autism Speaks has also created two additional sleep resources - Strategies for Improving Sleep in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Parents Guide and Sleep Tool Kit Quick Tips. Both can be downloaded on the same page as the new kit!

The Autism Speaks ATN/AIR-P Sleep Strategies for Teens: A Guide for Parents is a product of on-going activities of the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, a funded program of Autism Speaks. It is supported in part by cooperative agreement UA3 MC 11054, Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health (AIR-P Network) from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (Combating Autism Act of 2006, as amended by the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011), Health Resources and Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Service to the Massachusetts General Hospital.