Sleep and Behavioral Problems in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Abstract

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are at high risk for sleep disturbance and behavioral dysregulation. However, the relationships between these difficulties are not fully understood. The current study examined the relationships between specific types of sleep and behavioral problems among 81 children with ASD. Sleep problems were significantly associated with physical aggression, irritability, inattention, and hyperactivity. In multivariate analyses, distinct sets of sleep problems accounted for between 22 and 32 % of the variance in behavior problems across models. These results indicate that sleep disturbance is associated with behavioral dysregulation among children with ASD. Of note, night awakenings had the most consistently strong association with daytime behavior problems, even after controlling for the effects of age and sex.

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Acknowledgments

The authors are extremely grateful to all the families who participated in this study, and would also like to thank Christopher Engelhardt and Joseph Hilgard for their help with data collection and project implementation. This project was supported by Autism Speaks and cooperative agreement UA3 MC11054 through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Research Program to the Massachusetts General Hospital. This work was conducted through the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network.

Author Contributions

MM and KS conceptualized and designed the study and coordinated and supervised data collection. MM conducted the analyses and drafted the initial manuscript. KS critically reviewed and edited the manuscript, and both authors approved the final manuscript as submitted.

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Correspondence to Micah O. Mazurek.

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Dr. Mazurek declares that she has no conflict of interest. Dr. Sohl declares that she has no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Mazurek, M.O., Sohl, K. Sleep and Behavioral Problems in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 46, 1906–1915 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-016-2723-7

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Keywords

  • Autism
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Sleep
  • Aggression
  • Hyperactivity
  • Inattention
  • Behavior problems