The Teen Sleep Project
Sleep promotes healthy neural, cognitive, socio-emotional and physical development. Reports of sleep problems in autism are reported in up to 83% of autistic individuals. Current sleep research suggests that sleep problems lead to a number of adverse effects, including health, mood, memory, academic performance and daytime behavior.
Parental reports consistently describe atypical sleep onset delay (an increased amount of time between going to bed and falling asleep) as well as night-time awakenings and parasomnias (atypical movements or behaviours during sleep, e.g., sleep walking). Yet, very little research has examined the complexities of sleep hygiene and sleep patterns in teens with and without a diagnosis of autism. Moreover, we do not have any first-hand accounts how autistic people feel about sleep, what triggers their night time wakings and what helps them fall asleep. This is due to their limited participation in research.
The current research will, for the first time, investigate sleep experiences, needs and perspectives with autistic adolescents using inclusive visual elicitation techniques along with precise non-invasive sleep technology.
This study aims to combine our expertise in sleep science with a participatory model working with, rather than on, individuals with a diagnosis of autism. That is particularly important since a dearth of research describes sleep patterns and hygiene of autistic teens from the perspectives of autistic teens themselves.
Our methods also empower participants by engaging them in all levels of research by collecting, analysing and disseminating their own data while discussing in groups about the shared experiences that their photos reveal.
This study is funded by The John and Lorna Wing Foundation. Special Research Advisor : Dr Richard Mills.
Investigators : Georgia Pavlopoulou, Dr Dagmara Dimitriou