Sleep in children with autistic spectrum disorder: a questionnaire and polysomnographic study

Silvia Miano, Oliviero Bruni, Maurizio Elia, Alessia Trovato, Arianna Smerieri, Elisabetta Verrillo, Michele Roccella, Mario G Terzano, Raffaele Ferri
Sleep Medicine 2007, 9 (1): 64-70

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate sleep in children with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) by means of sleep questionnaires and polysomnography; moreover, to analyze their cyclic alternating pattern (CAP).

METHODS: Thirty-one patients with ASD (28 males, 3 females, aged 3.7-19 years) and age-matched normal controls were included. ASD children were evaluated by a standard sleep questionnaire that consisted of 45 items in a Likert-type scale covering several areas of sleep disorders and by overnight polysomnography in the sleep laboratory after one adaptation night.

RESULTS: The questionnaire results showed that parents of ASD children reported a high prevalence of disorders of initiating and maintaining sleep, enuresis, repetitive behavior when falling asleep, and daytime sleepiness. Polysomnographically, ASD children showed reduced time in bed, total sleep time, sleep period time and rapid eye movement (REM) latency. ASD subjects had a CAP rate during slow-wave sleep (SWS) lower than normal controls, together with a lower percentage of A1 subtypes.

CONCLUSIONS: ASD children questionnaires showed a higher percentage of disorders of initiating and maintaining sleep than normal controls; this was not completely confirmed by sleep staging. CAP measures showed subtle alterations of NREM sleep which could be detected with an appropriate methodology of analysis. The reduction of A1 subtypes during SWS might play a role in the impairment of cognitive functioning in these subjects.

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