The Pineal Gland’s Relationship to Sleep Disturbances in Autism Spectrum Disorder

June 21, 2021

Melatonin Production Takes Place Predominantly in Pineal Gland

SafeMinds Shares has covered many studies which explored varying topics related to autism and sleep disturbances. In the past, we have looked at  sensory sensitivities, lack of adequate sleep disturbance screenings, insomnia treatment barriers, and poor sleep and its connection to autism severity. Now, for the first time, a Turkish study has investigated the relationship between autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and sleep disorders by examining pineal gland volume. The pineal gland is responsible for producing melatonin, the hormone that figures prominently in the body’s sleep wake-cycle sometimes called the circadian rhythm. The amount of melatonin released into the body is proportional to pineal gland volume. This innovative study included four goals. It’s first goal was to figure out whether pineal gland volume in children with autism varied from children without the disorder. The second goal involved examining patients with ASD to see if they had pineal gland cysts more often than the study’s controls. The third goal was to investigate whether there is a change in pineal gland volume based on age in both cohorts. The final goal involved determining normal pineal gland volumes in children as a whole. To accomplish these goals, the study’s authors recruited 120 children with ASD and 82 control subjects (ages 2 -17 years) to take part in their research. All children included in this study had previously undergone brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which provided volumetric analyses, as well as imaging of the gland itself. The study’s results provided answers for each of its goals. The first result exhibited that children with autism have significantly lower total pineal gland volumes compared to typical children. Secondly, it was discovered that the rate of pineal cysts were markedly higher in children with ASD versus the control group children. The third result demonstrated that pineal volume in both child cohorts was dependent on age. Lastly, the team ascertained the typical distribution rate for the volumes of normal pineal glands in healthy children as well as for children with autism. In the end, the study’s authors call for more clarification and investigation of their abnormal findings. This research may have found a very important root cause of sleep problems for children with ASD. The discovery that children on the spectrum produce lower pineal gland volumes than typical children is significant since the pineal gland produces melatonin, which regulates the sleep cycle. This promising discovery needs further research.

Original Study

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