A small study funded by the National Institutes of Health suggests that sleep problems among children who have a sibling with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may further raise the likelihood of an ASD diagnosis, compared to at-risk children who do not have difficulty sleeping.
Previous research has shown that young children who have a sibling with ASD are at a higher risk for also being diagnosed with the condition. The study appears in The American Journal of Psychiatry .
If confirmed by other studies, the findings may give clinicians a tool to identify sleep problems early and provide interventions to reduce their effects on the health and development of children with autism. The findings may also provide insights into the potential role of sleep problems in the development of ASD.
The study was conducted by Annette M. Estes, Ph.D., of the University of Washington Autism Center in Seattle, and colleagues in the NIH Autism Centers of Excellence Infant Brain Imaging Study Network. NIH funding was provided by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the National Institute of Mental Health.
The results are a promising lead, If confirmed by more in-depth studies, patterns of sleep disturbance in early life might be used to pinpoint increased risk for ASD among young children already at risk because they have a sibling with ASD." Alice Kau, PhD, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Branch. NICHD
ASD is a neurological and developmental disorder that begins early in life and affects how a person interacts with others, communicates, and learns.
The researchers analyzed data from a long-term study of children who do and do not have siblings with ASD. When the children were 6 and 12 months of age, parents were asked to respond to an infant temperament questionnaire that asks how much difficulty their child has falling asleep at bedtime and falling back to sleep after waking up during the night. Related Stories
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