Insomnia Tracks with Clinical Impairment in Hospitalized Children with ASD

Poor Sleep Prevalent, Goes Hand-in-Hand with Autism Severity

Researchers from the Maine Medical Center Research Institute report that autistic children who have insomnia also have more severe behaviors and more severe autism symptoms. The study was conducted among 427 psychiatrically hospitalized children with autism. Per parent report, 60% of the children had at least one form of insomnia, with 26% having difficulties with sleep onset, 25% having problems staying asleep, 4% having early morning waking, and 45% having a combination of insomnia subtypes. Difficulty staying asleep and early morning awakenings were associated with longer hospital stays. Early morning awakening was also associated with higher autism symptom severity. Children with difficulty staying asleep or multiple insomnia symptoms scored lower on adaptive behaviors such as communication, self-care, socialization. These two groups also scored higher on maladaptive behaviors such as irritability, hyperactivity, emotional reactivity, and emotional dysphoria. 

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