Background: The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is on the rise. Apart from the core behavioral issues of impaired communication, impaired social interaction, and restricted and/or repeated behavioral phenotype, comorbidities like sleep problems are increasingly getting recognized as important determinants of management and overall quality of life.
Methods: This study was conducted in a tertiary care teaching hospital in northern India over a two year period. Children diagnosed with ASD and normally developing children (control subjects) aged 3 to 10 years were enrolled in the study. Both groups underwent sleep evaluation based on the Children's Sleep Habit Questionnaire. Children with ASD also underwent polysomnography, Childhood Autism Rating Scale, Childhood Behavioral Checklist, and Developmental Profile 3 assessments.
Results: The prevalence of poor sleepers among children with ASD and control subjects was 77.5% (confidence interval 66 to 86.5). and 29.2% (confidence interval 18.6 to 41.5), respectively (P < 0.001). The salient findings on polysomnography were reduced sleep efficiency, decreased rapid eye movement and slow wave sleep duration, and desaturation index>1. The Childhood Behavioral Checklist score was significantly high in poor sleepers compared with good sleepers on Children's Sleep Habit Questionnaire (P = 0.004). There was no correlation of Childhood Autism Rating Scale or Developmental Profile 3 score with sleep problems in children with ASD.
Conclusions: Nearly three fourths of children with ASD have sleep abnormalities with a possible effect on the behavioral phenotype. The polysomnographic findings provide further insight with opportunity for pharmacological interventions. Screening for sleep problems is imperative for the appropriate management and overall improvement in quality of life in children with ASD.
Keywords: ASD; CSHQ; PSG; sleep problems.
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