Sleeping problems due to pain in autism?

sleeping childPain may predict sleeping problems in teens diagnosed with autism according to new research from Megan Tudor and colleagues* based at Stony Brook University, USA.

Analysing responses from mothers of over 60 children/young adults on measures of pain and sleeping issues, researchers reported that participants presented with elevated levels of pain compared with normative data based on caregiver responses to a pain checklist specifically designed for non-communicating children.

Their suggestion that pain scores also seemed to correlate with responses on a sleeping habits questionnaire reveals a potentially interesting connection which calls for both further study and much greater appreciation of how both issues may impact on the overt presentation of autism.

Autism is not generally thought of as a painful condition. Indeed, previous research had hinted that there may be subtle differences in the perception of pain for some people on the autism spectrum. That being said, other research has highlighted how certain comorbidity, particularly that related to gastrointestinal (GI) issues and/or certain foods, may have the ability to invoke a pain response and further, could impact on the presentation of some behaviours.

Further investigation is required to look at the important issues of pain and sleeping issues in autism and related developmental conditions. If pain is confirmed, whether the alleviation of such issues either directly or peripherally via the use of pain relief strategies, may have further impact over and above improving quality of life onwards to affecting the presentation of core or peripheral features for some.


* Tudor ME. et al. Pain as a predictor of sleep problems in youth with autism spectrum disorders. Autism. 2014 Feb 4.

Further commentary on this study can be found at: