Sleep Patterns in Kids with Autism

by: Dan Florell, Ph.D.

This episode focuses on the sleep patterns of children with and without autism spectrum disorder.

We are featuring a journal article this week titled Sleep patterns in children with and without autism spectrum disorder. The authors were interested in how sleep patterns change as children get older and whether there are distinctive sleep patterns for children with autism compared to typically developing children. They asked 108 mothers of children with autism and 108 mothers of typically developing children about their children’s sleep habits.

The authors found that children with autism spectrum disorder had significantly poorer sleep quality and quantity than typically developing children. More specifically, children with autism had higher rates of bedtime resistance, longer sleep onset delay, more problems with sleep duration, greater sleep anxiety, and more night time wakings and sleep disordered breathing.

The worse sleep patterns for children with autism occurred between the ages of 6 to 9 years old. While typically developing children had sleep difficulties lessen as they got older, children with autism tended to have their sleep problems persist.

The takeaway is that children with autism spectrum disorder have significant sleep difficulties when compared to typically developing children and that this difficulties persist as these children get older. This means that any intervention program that is created for children with autism should consider addressing their sleep difficulties as part of the intervention. As children with autism’s sleep improve, it is likely that some of their other behavioral symptoms will lessen.

That concludes this webcast of the School Mental Health Minute. Come back next week and thanks for watching.

Source:

Hodge, D., Carollo, T.M., Lewin, M., Hoffman, C.D. & Sweeney, D.P. (2014). Sleep patterns in children with and without autism spectrum disorder: Developmental comparisons. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 35, 1631-1638.

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