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Sleep Problems in Children and Adolescents with Autism: Type, Severity and Impact

Abstract

Sleep problems of varying kind and severity, including both insomnias and parasomnias, are a commonly reported clinical problem among children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and, it is estimated that approximately 50–80% of children with ASD and their families are affected by such problems. Without effective treatment, these sleep problems are likely to persist and can result in adverse long-term effects for the child and other family members. Despite the higher prevalence of sleep problems in individuals with ASD, little is known about the interaction between the type of sleep problems and the impact they have on the individual and their families. The purpose of this study was to examine the types of sleep problems reported by parents of children with ASD and their secondary impact. Specifically, using data from a survey of families with a child with ASD we classified the types of sleep problems reported and examined correlations between these sleep problems and reported effects on the individual and their family. Data from 244 children with ASD were reported to experience various types of sleep problems, particularly insomnia and bedtime resistance. Further, the findings confirm the far reaching adverse effects of sleep problems on child and family wellbeing. The implications of these findings and future research directions are discussed.

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Correspondence to Amarie Carnett.

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Carnett, A., McLay, L., Hansen, S. et al. Sleep Problems in Children and Adolescents with Autism: Type, Severity and Impact. J Dev Phys Disabil 33, 977–991 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10882-020-09783-5

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Keywords

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Sleep problems
  • Pediatric sleep disturbance
  • Insomnia
  • Parasomnia