Natalija Jegorova-Marcenkiene1, Sigita Lesinskienė1, Laima Mikulenaite2
1Vilnius University Medical Faculty Psychiatric Clinic, Vilnius, Lithuania
2Vilnius University Medical Faculty Department of Rehabilitation, Physical and Sports Medicine, Vilnius, Lithuania
Introduction: Sleep related problems are more common in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as compared with typically developing children, prevalence ranging from 40 – 80 %. Studies show that the more common sleep issues in ASD children are difficulty falling asleep, frequent night waking, reduced sleep duration, lack of sleep routine, frequent night time fears and nightmares. There are various factors associated with sleep problems in children with ASD. Research has proved that sleep disturbances in ASD children have been associated with abnormal circadian rhythm, precisely with lower nocturnal level of melatonin due to abnormal secretion and aberrant expression of the sleep regulating neurotransmitter GABA (γ-Amino butyric acid). Aim of study was to investigate the sleep peculiarities of preschool ASD children.
Methods: The questioning of parents of ASD children was conducted by the means of semi-structured interview. During the interview Sleep Disturbance Scale for Children (SDSG) in preschool age was used to identify the sleep problems. Literature on sleep problems in ASD children was analyzed.
Results: 25 parents of ASD children were interviewed. The more common sleep issues parents reported during the interview were behavioral insomnia (sleep difficulties that result from inappropriate sleep associations or inadequate parental limit setting) and frequent waking during the night. Despite the relevance of the problem, the parents hadn’t report their child having a sleep problem before and hadn’t receive advice or treatment for the problem.
Conclusions: Sleep problems are common in ASD children. Some of the parents simply do not recognize the issue. Others consider the problem is a part of the child’s developmental disorder. It is important that specialists systematically inquire, identify and help to treat the sleep problems in ASD children, thus improving the quality of life for both the child and the family.