Beth A. Malow
Study Aims and Objectives
To understand the prevalence of sleep problems and patterns of medication use in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Methods - Sample, Procedure, Study Measures, Analysis
Data from 1518 boys and girls ages 4 to 10 years, with an ASD diagnosis, were analyzed to determine the number of children documented to have sleep difficulties by parent-completed questionnaires and forms completed by a health care provider. This information was then compared to use of medication in the same children. Medication use was measured by the number of drugs prescribed by a health care provider.
Results – Main Finding(s)
While 71% of subjects had significant sleep problems by parent report, only 30% received an official diagnosis for these problems. Of those diagnosed, 46% were prescribed medications to help with sleep. Children taking sleep medications showed worse daytime behavior and pediatric quality of life.
Conclusion – Summary Statement
Parental concerns about sleep problems may not be reflected in clinical evaluations. Practices should be developed to screen for sleep disturbances in children with ASD. Furthermore, many medications taken for sleep have negative side effects, supporting the need for evidence-based interventions.