Sleep quantity and quality as predictors of behavior and mental health issues for children and adolescents with autism

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Background: Research has supported a relationship between sleep problems and day-time behavior and mental health for young children with autism. Fewer studies have investigated these relationships across young children to adolescents. Method: This study analyzed data retrieved from a sleep and behavior data base constructed from information obtained from patient charts and psychological assessments at a developmental pediatric clinic. The study evaluated the relationships among sleep quality and quantity (measured by the Behavioral Evaluation of Disorders of Sleep), age, and mental health and behavior problems (measured by the Child Behavior Checklist) for children and adolescents with autism (N = 446) from 16 months to 18 years old. Results: Results indicated that despite age, children and adolescents with autism who experienced sleep quantity and quality problems were more likely to experience internalizing (e.g., anxiety/depression), and externalizing (aggression, destructiveness, delinquency) behavior problems. Internalizing and externalizing behavior problems were associated with sleep behavior, such as sensitivity to environmental stimuli, waking during the night, disoriented waking, and fewer hours of sleep (last 24 h for externalizing and total). Conclusions: The results of this study replicate and extend previous research on daytime behavior, mental health, and sleep quality and quantity relationships. Indications of sensitivity to the environment to these daytime issues indicates the need for subsequent research delineating the influence of variables within the biopsychosocial model (e.g., sensory hyperarousal) of the inter-relatedness of sleep, daytime behaviors, and mental health for individuals with autism across the lifespan.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101767
JournalResearch in Autism Spectrum Disorders
StatePublished - Jun 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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