Children with autism have poorer sleep quality

Friday 25 October 2013


Sleep specialists have shown that children with autistic spectrum disorders have poorer sleep quality than their peers – sleep duration was shorter and they woke up more frequently.

Paul Gringras, professor of children’s sleep medicine and neurodisability at Evelina London Children’s Hospital, says: “There is increasingly good evidence that poor sleep quality affects learning and brain development.

“This research does not show that sleep loss causes autism, but that it is likely there is a shared mechanism as the early changes in sleep seem to be an important marker of brain development.

“The possibility that children with autism might gain from even a small increase in total sleep time is an exciting area for future research.”

Parents were asked about their children’s routines including when they went to bed and woke up, and how much time they spent sleeping during the day.

Research showed that before the age of 30 months, there was no major difference in sleeping patterns between the two groups of children. However from 30 months onwards, children with autistic spectrum disorders had 43 minutes less sleep at night.

Children with autistic spectrum disorders were also significantly more likely to wake three or more times a night than their typical peers. This difference became even more noticeable the older the children became.

Data for the study was taken from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), which has been tracking the health and development of more than 14,000 children born in 1991-2 in South West England. The research compared 73 children with autistic spectrum disorders with 10,704 typical children.

The full study, which was made possible by a grant from Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity, was published in Archives of Diseases in Childhood:

Last updated: October 2013

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