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Category Archives: CBT

Sleep Problems and ASD: Can CBT Help?

sleep and ASD

Sleep, or lack of it, can really affect people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Sleep problems are an all too common headache for parents of a child with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).  A lack of sleep in any child usually cause distress, but when a child has a diagnosis of ASD, the impact of poor sleep is usually much more of a problem.

If your child has autism, you may have noticed that when they go through a period of sleep difficulty, their symptoms often get worse. During these times, you may have also found that the trusted strategies which usually work well to manage ASD are much reduced. Sometimes, they don’t seem to work at all.

Could CBT help improve sleep in people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

Experts from the University of Missouri believe that a simple course of CBT may be really helpful in breaking free from the horror of sleepless nights.  They want to ease the misery of the ramped up behavioural issues that usually appear the next day.

Christina McCrae, the lead researcher in the study, maintains that CBT is the most effective way of improving sleep patterns in children with ASD.  Normally this involves keeping a sleep diary and working with the therapist to root out the issues that are interfering with sleep.

Despite this knowledge, the researchers feel there is still some uncertainty about how exactly to achieve more benefits for autistic people through the use of CBT.  They are eager to maximise results.

To better understand this process, McCrae and her colleagues are conducting a research study through the research core at the MU Thompson Centre for Autism and Neurodevelopmental disorders with children aged between 6 and 12 years old.

This is an exciting project and one that holds much promise. We eagerly look forward to reviewing their publicised findings, and hopefully incorportating them into our existing CBT protocol.

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard, Chartered Consultant Psychologist, PsychD, BSc, MSc, C.Psychol, C.Sci, AFBPS. Dr Tizzard is the Clinical Director of Christine Tizzard Psychology (

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