Sleep patterns in children with and without autism spectrum disorders: developmental comparisons

Res Dev Disabil. 2014 Jul;35(7):1631-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ridd.2014.03.037. Epub 2014 Apr 26.


The present study examined age-related changes in the sleep of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) compared to age-related changes in the sleep of typically developing (TD) children. Participants were 108 mothers of children with ASD and 108 mothers of TD children. Participants completed a questionnaire on children's overall sleep quality that also tapped specific sleep-domains (i.e., bedtime resistance, sleep onset delay, sleep duration, sleep anxiety, night wakings, parasomnias, disordered breathing, daytime sleepiness). Results confirm significantly poorer sleep quantity and quality in children with ASD, particularly children age 6-9 years. Unlike TD children, the sleep problems of children with ASD were unlikely to diminish with age. Our findings suggest that it is important to exam specific domains of sleep as well as overall sleep patterns. Finding of significant age-related interactions suggests that the practice of combining children from wide age-ranges into a single category obfuscates potentially important developmental differences.

Keywords: Autism; Development; Melatonin; Sleep.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / diagnosis*
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / epidemiology
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reference Values
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / epidemiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / psychology