Sleep disorders and autism

Sleep disorders and autism

Autistic people are more likely than others to have sleep disorders. This can mean having trouble sleeping, waking up too often or sleeping more than necessary.

What are sleep disorders?

Sleep disorders affect two major aspects of life. On the one hand, there are sleep disorders that prevent people from sleeping long enough or deeply enough to have a good level of energy during the day (not enough sleep). On the other hand, there are disorders that prevent people from being awake long enough or with sufficient concentration to carry out their daily activities (not awake enough).


Link to autism

Around 80% of autistic people also have some form of sleep disorder (Hohn et al., 2019). The sleep disorders that affect most autistic people are those of the “not enough sleep” type. But of course, when you don’t get enough sleep, it’s hard to stay awake, and be active all day!

80% of autistic people have sleep problems!​
That’s a very large proportion of the community.

Why sleep disorders in autism?


Autism is linked to sleep disorders in two ways. Firstly, hypersensitivity to sounds and sensations delays the moment of falling asleep and wakes us up at night. Sensory barriers can be really helpful in getting to sleep more quickly.


Secondly, autistic people do not secrete the sleep neurotransmitter melatonin at the same time as non-autistic people.s (Lalanne et al., 2021).. This gives the impression of always being jet-lagged! You can talk to your doctor to find solutions.


Hohn, V. D., de Veld, D. M. J., Mataw, K. J. S., van Someren, E. J. W., & Begeer, S. (2019). Insomnia Severity in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder is Associated with sensory Hyper-Reactivity and Social Skill Impairment. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 49(5), 2146‑2155.

Lalanne, S., Fougerou-Leurent, C., Anderson, G. M., Schroder, C. M., Nir, T., Chokron, S., Delorme, R., Claustrat, B., Bellissant, E., Kermarrec, S., Franco, P., Denis, L., & Tordjman, S. (2021). Melatonin : From Pharmacokinetics to Clinical Use in Autism Spectrum Disorder. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 22(3), 1490.

Catherine Bouchard-Tremblay

Science popularizer