BACKGROUND:

Sleep problems can impact daytime behavior, quality of life, and overall health. We compared sleep habits in young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental delays and disorders and in children from the general population (POP).

METHODS:

We included 2- to 5-year-old children whose parent completed all items on the Children’s Sleep Habits Questionnaire (CSHQ) in a multisite case-control study: 522 children with ASD; 228 children with other developmental delays and disorders with autism spectrum disorder characteristics (DD w/ASD); 534 children with other developmental delays and disorders without autism spectrum disorder characteristics (DD w/o ASD); and 703 POP. Multivariable analysis of variance compared CSHQ mean total score (TS) and subscale scores between groups. Logistic regression analysis examined group differences by using TS cutoffs of 41 and 48. Analyses were adjusted for covariates.

RESULTS:

Mean CSHQ TS for children in each group: ASD (48.5); DD w/ASD (50.4); DD w/o ASD (44.4); and POP (43.3). Differences between children with ASD and both children with DD w/o ASD and POP were statistically significant. Using a TS cutoff of 48, the proportion of children with sleep problems was significantly higher in children in the ASD group versus DD w/o ASD and POP groups (adjusted odds ratios [95% confidence intervals]: 2.12 [1.57 to 2.87] and 2.37 [1.75 to 3.22], respectively).

CONCLUSIONS:

Sleep problems are more than twice as common in young children with ASD and DD w/ASD. Screening for sleep problems is important in young children to facilitate provision of appropriate interventions.

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