Autism News: An Open Label Trial of Donepezil for Enhancement of Rapid Eye Movement Sleep in Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism News Update:


Study Looks at Use of Aricept (Donepezil) for REM Sleep in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Research Studies the Impact of Aricept (Donepezil) on REM Sleep in Autistic Children

Research has suggested that children with autism do not spend as much time in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep as healthy children.  It is thought that REM sleep plays an important role in neuroplasticity (ability of the brain to change structurally and functionally).  Previous research has also shown that acetylcholine plays an important role in REM sleep.

Research involving Aricept (donepezil), which increases levels of acetylcholine, was recently conducted to determine what effect it would have on the REM sleep of autistic children.  The findings were published in an article titled An Open Label Trial of Donepezil for Enhancement of Rapid Eye Movement Sleep in Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

The study was an open-label trial which included 5 participants between the ages of 2.5 and 6.9 years of age.  Each of the 5 children had an autism diagnosis and experienced REM % values at least 2 standard deviations lower than the expected value for healthy children of similar age.  The 5 participants were observed via polysomnography for changes in REM sleep after receiving Aricept (donepezil).

Aricept (Donepezil) Benefits:

The study found that the amount of REM sleep increased significantly in all 5 children with autism after taking Aricept (donepezil).  Researchers also observed that the time necessary before entering REM sleep was significantly decreased in all 5 children taking Aricept.

The authors state that the research findings suggest that Aricept (donepezil) may increase the amount of time that children with autism spectrum disorders spend in REM sleep.  They assert that double-blind, placebo-controlled trials need to be conducted to determine what effect increased REM sleep in autistic children might have on behavior, cognition, and learning.

The article was epublished on August 21, 2011 in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology.


Additional Information:


  1. DaiseyM says

    Drugs like Galantamine are increasingly seen to help people with severe autism. Probably because those with severe autism are most deficient in choline, and Galantamine elevates acetylcholine in the brain.

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