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Do Children with Autism Sleep Less Than Their Typical Peers?

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Updated July 21, 2009

Question: Do Children with Autism Sleep Less Than Their Typical Peers?
Do children with autism spectrum disorders have more sleep issues than typically developing children?
Answer: The short answer to this question is -- yes! Several studies support parents' statements that their children with autism have more serious sleep issues than do typically developing children.

According to one Australian study: "The results showed high prevalence of sleep problems with significantly more problems reported in the autism and Asperger groups (Typical children = 50%, autism = 73%, Asperger syndrome = 73%), with no significant differences between groups on severity or type of sleep problem. Children with Asperger syndrome were significantly more likely to be sluggish and disoriented after waking... [In conclusion], children with AD may have more symptoms of sleep disturbance, and different types of sleep problems than children with autism."

Another study notes that adolescents with Asperger syndrome are more likely than their typical peers to suffer from insomnia: "Parental reports indicate that in childhood AS/HFA insomnia is a common and distressing symptom which is frequently associated with coexistent behavior problems. Identification and treatment of sleep problems need to be a routine part of the treatment plan for children with AS/HFA."

Knowing that your child really does have -- or may acquire -- serious sleep issues is the bad news. The good news, however, is that good sleep hygiene, combined with melatonin, a sleep-supporting supplement, can make a tremendous difference in your child's ability to fall asleep and sleep through the night.

Sources:

Allik H, Larsson JO, Smedje H. Insomnia in school-age children with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism. BMC Psychiatry. 2006 Apr 28;6:18.

Andersen IM, Kaczmarska J, McGrew SG, Malow BA. Melatonin for Insomnia in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders. J Child Neurol. 2008 Jan 8 [Epub ahead of print]

Malow BA, Marzec ML, McGrew SG, Wang L, Henderson LM, Stone WL. Characterizing sleep in children with autism spectrum disorders: a multidimensional approach. Sleep. 2006 Dec 1;29(12):1563-71.

Xue Ming , Brimacombe M, Chaaban J, Zimmerman-Bier B, Wagner GC.Autism spectrum disorders: concurrent clinical disorders. J Child Neurol. 2008 Jan;23(1):6-13. Epub 2007 Dec 3.

Polimeni MA, Richdale AL, Francis AJ. A survey of sleep problems in autism, Asperger's disorder and typically developing children. J Intellect Disabil Res. 2005 Apr;49(Pt 4):260-8.

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