Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by language and communication deficits, and difficulties with social interaction (Twisk, 2001). Research has shown that 80% of youth with ASD experience sleep challenges which can lead to sleep-related health issues, exacerbate problematic behaviors, and increase vulnerability to anxiety and depression (Wachob & Lorenzi, 2015; Williams et al., 2004; Richdale & Schreck, 2009). Sleep plays a central role in adaptive functioning, and insufficient sleep can hinder learning, memory, and neuroplasticity for children with ASD (Cohen et al., 2014). As these unhealthy behavior patterns can lead to more adverse long-term health consequences, it is critical to develop interventions that may improve health-related behaviors in youth with ASD. Martial arts, especially judo, is unique because it integrates both physical activity and mind-body components (Bell et al., 2016). Judo may be particularly appealing to youth with ASD due to the structured format and repetitive exercises typically observed during judo sessions (Bell et al., 2016). Recent studies have found that judo interventions in youth with ASD may increase participation in physical activity, improve self-confidence, decrease levels of anxiety, and reduce the frequency of negative behaviors in this population (Morales et al., 2021; Garcia et al., 2020; Renziehausen et al., 2022). Research has shown that participation in physical activity may be associated with sleep quality in both NT youth and youth with ASD (Masters et al., 2019). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the effects of a 16-week judo intervention on sleep quality in youth with ASD. It was hypothesized that this program would improve components of sleep quality in youth with ASD. METHODS: A USA Judo certified coach with prior experience teaching judo to youth with ASD led the 45-minute weekly sessions. Each participant was given an Actigraph GT9X accelerometer and a link to the Qualtrics parent surveys including a child sleep diary. Participants were instructed to wear the accelerometers for seven days and nights over two data collection points: baseline and post-intervention. A validated sleep algorithm was applied to the data to calculate total sleep time, sleep efficiency, sleep latency, and wake after sleep onset. Non-parametric t-tests were used to compare sleep quality outcome variables at pre- and post-intervention. RESULTS: The sleep data of 18 participants was analyzed, consisting of an approximately 80% male sample, a mean age of 13.17 ± 3.76, and approximately 55% of the sample being white. There was a positive statistical correlation between participation in the Judo program and increased sleep efficiency (p=0.05), decreased wake after sleep onset (p=0.02), and decreased sleep latency (p=0.001). CONCLUSION: Judo, a mindfulness form of martial arts, has the potential to serve as a therapeutic intervention to improve sleep outcomes in children with ASD.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Brazendale, Keith


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Health Professions and Sciences


Health Sciences



Access Status

Open Access

Release Date