Gastrointestinal dysfunctions as a risk factor for sleep disorders in children with idiopathic autism spectrum disorder: A retrospective cohort study

Autism. 2017 Nov;21(8):1010-1020. doi: 10.1177/1362361316667061. Epub 2017 Feb 12.


Sleep disorders often co-occur with autism spectrum disorder. They further exacerbate autism spectrum disorder symptoms and interfere with children's and parental quality of life. This study examines whether gastrointestinal dysfunctions increase the odds of having sleep disorders in 610 children with idiopathic autism spectrum disorder, aged 2-18 years, from the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange research program. The adjusted odds ratio for sleep disorder among those with gastrointestinal dysfunctions compared to those without was 1.74 (95% confidence interval: 1.22-2.48). In addition, the odds of having multiple sleep disorder symptoms among children with gastrointestinal dysfunctions, adjusted for age, gender, behavioral problems, bed wetting, current and past supplements, and current and past medications for autism spectrum disorder symptoms were 1.75 (95% confidence interval: 1.10-2.79) compared to children without gastrointestinal dysfunctions. Early detection and treatment of gastrointestinal dysfunctions in autism spectrum disorder may be means to reduce prevalence and severity of sleep problems and improve quality of life and developmental outcomes in this population.

Keywords: autism; gastrointestinal dysfunction; idiopathic autism spectrum disorder; multiplex families; severity; sleep disorder.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / complications*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / complications*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / complications*