For parents with children who have Autism, and ASD it won’t come as a surprise that a recent study conducted by the Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York has shown that the majority of children with a diagnosis have trouble sleeping.
Insomnia is a problem in all age groups from very young babies, to adolescents, usually evening out in the late teens. Researchers in Britain and America found that Autistic children aged between six months and 11 on average slept between 17 to 47 minutes less than their peers.
The study, published in the Journal of Archives in disease in childhood, examined more than 14,000 children born in the United Kingdom between 1991 – 1992. For this particular study, researchers used data from 7,043 children without autism and 39 children with Autism.
Data was collected in the form of parental questionnaires at specific age points at 6, 18, 30, 42, 69, 115 and 140 months old , and were asked questions about what time their children went to bed, woke up and slept during the day.
“This study further documents what has long been reported and suspected: that children with an autism spectrum disorder have more sleep problems than do their peers”
Said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park.
No marked difference was observed in sleeping patterns before the age of two and a half, the most marked difference coming at the age of 11. Even though the gap in sleep time narrowed after this age, children with Autism and ASD slept significantly less time than their peers.
By the time the children in the study were between 6 and 7 years old, more than 10 percent of those with autism were waking three times a night, compared with 0.5 percent of those without autism, the investigators found.
“There are increasing biochemical and genetic data to support the existence of fundamental disturbances in circadian melatonin production in some children with autism, which may partly explain these findings,”
they wrote in the study.
“Children with ASD are reported to have reduced levels of circulating melatonin and disrupted circadian rhythms, and links have been identified between genes involved in melatonin synthesis and ASD, which could help explain the disturbed sleep patterns observed in children with ASD.”