Project Summary

View Topic Brief*

Developmental disabilities (DD) encompass a wide range of disorders, many of which may be associated with an increased risk for sleep disorders, including insomnia, sleep disordered breathing, and sleep apnea. Sleep disorders can present a significant source of stressors for patients and caregivers and may exacerbate or contribute to cognitive and behavioral issues over time. In this report, we use the terms sleep disorders and sleep disturbances interchangeably as descriptors that encompass the range of sleep problems that individuals with DD may have.

A range of pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic treatments for sleep problems in DD exist. Pharmacologic interventions include melatonin, trazodone, clonidine, and sedatives. Nonpharmacologic interventions include various behavioral strategies, exercise, weighted blankets, and mattress systems. Behavioral sleep interventions include sleep hygiene, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), CBT for insomnia, and a range of behavioral strategies such as extinction, graduated extinction, bedtime fading, and sleep scheduling.

The goal of this topic brief was to identify existing evidence (such as guidelines and research studies) for interventions aimed at treating sleep disorders in children or adults with DD (including individuals with intellectual disability).

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*The content included in this document does not necessarily represent the views of PCORI, its Board of Governors, or Methodology Committee. This work is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International). For more information:

Project Information

Amy Tsou, MD, MSc

Key Dates

November 2022


Project Status
State State The state where the project originates, or where the primary institution or organization is located. View Glossary
Last updated: November 15, 2022