Circadian misalignment in patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is associated with sleep architecture with reduced slow-wave sleep and increased REM sleep, according to research presented at the 2022 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society, held from June 4 to 8, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Investigators assessed the relationship between sleep architecture and circadian rhythm in patients with ASD using dim light melatonin onset (DLMO) and ambulatory polysomnography.

A total of 11 patients with autism (mean age, 13.07±4.76 years; range, 8 to 23 years; 3 girls) were enrolled. Ambulatory overnight polysomnography was performed in the participants’ homes after a week of systematic desensitization. The participants collected saliva samples on 2 consecutive days. The first evening sample was taken 3 hours before the average sleep onset time, and subsequent samples were taken at 30-minute intervals for a total of 5 evening samples. Melatonin levels were plotted against the time of the saliva samples to calculate DLMO for each day.

“Our data revealed that circadian misalignment in individuals with ASD is associated with sleep architecture characterized by reduced slow-wave sleep and increased REM sleep,” stated the researchers. “Given the importance of slow-wave sleep for memory and cognitive functions, this finding may contribute to understanding the relationship between sleep alterations and brain development in ASD.”

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