According to a new review published in the journal Pharmacotherapy, for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), no single sleep-based intervention was found to be effective across all sleep problems. 

Children with ASD often experience sleep problems. The aim of this review was to investigate the effectiveness of five sleep interventions across 17 sleep problem domains in children with ASD. The five interventions included melatonin, drug therapy other than melatonin, alternative therapies (ie, massage, aromatherapy, multivitamin/iron supplementation), behavioral interventions and parent education/education programs. Eight systematic reviews were included in this meta-synthesis.

Results showed that not one intervention was effective across all sleep problems, however, melatonin, behavioral interventions, and parent education/education program interventions appeared to be the most effective across multiple sleep problem domains. 

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The authors note that “due to the heterogeneous causative factors and presentations of disordered sleep, further research into the effectiveness of sleep interventions may target specific phenotypic subgroups rather than a broad analysis across the general ASD population.” In addition, they call for more research into the efficacy of different polytherapeutic approaches in order to provide more evidence to inform best practices.

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