Avoiding Sleep Problems
Bedroom TV Screens Could Cause Sleep Problems for Boys with Autism
According to a University of Missouri study entitled, "Media Use and Sleep among Boys with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, or Typical Development," published in a 2013 issue of Pediatrics, allowing boys with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) access to computers, TV, and video games in their bedrooms is associated with lower amounts of sleep.
Earlier research revealed that access to screen based media in the bedroom is related to reduced amounts of time sleeping within the population as a whole. The research team at the University of Missouri claims that their study showed a stronger "screen to sleep" relationship among autistic boys. This particular clinical trial explored the correlation between sleep habits among boys with autism and use of media devices as compared to both ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) boys and boys without either type of developmental disorder.
Exposure to TV and Video Games Equals Less Sleep
Researchers conducted surveys on the parents of boys with ADHD, parents of boys with ASD, as well as parents of boys with no disorder. Parents were questioned about their children's total hours of access to media daily, access to media in the bedroom and average number of hours of sleep on a nightly basis. The study discovered a relationship between decreased amounts of sleep in autistic boys and computer and/or television access in their bedrooms. In addition, they noticed that average amounts of exposure to video games was associated to less time sleeping at night in those boys who have autism spectrum disorder.
While these findings are considered to be preliminary, researchers suggest that parents need to be aware of the potential effects media use could have on their children's nightly sleep habits, particularly if they have ASD. If a child is having difficulties sleeping, their parents could think about monitoring and potentially restricting their use of TV, computers, and video games - especially close to the time the child goes to bed for the night.
About the "Screen to Sleep" Relationship
Additional research studies will likely explore the actual processes that result in media access in the bedroom contributing to disturbances in sleep among autistic children. The results of these studies were cross-sectional. In other words, researchers were not able to definitively ascertain whether exposure to media before bedtime causes some autistic children to not sleep as much. However, this "screen to sleep" relationship was particularly significant in autistic boys. This suggests that more research is required to explore this phenomenon further.
According to the CDC, approximately 1 child out of 88 is on the autism spectrum of disorders. Characteristics of ASD can include problems with social and communication behaviors as well as behaviors of a repetitive nature. It should be noted that autistic children are typically prone to sleep problems regardless of their overall exposure to various types of media. Many other underlying factors could be contributing to their sleep disturbances but media usage may further exacerbate these problems.
Media usage among autistic children appears to be worth future research in order to help with improved sleep outcomes in this group. In addition, it is thought that a certain amount of media access could prove to be beneficial to children with ASD. Research studies need to be conducted in order to determine the way various computer technologies might help to teach and/or reinforce behaviors and skills.
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