Background and Objectives: Sleep disorders are common in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The aims of this study were to describe the incidence and characteristics of sleep disorders using a questionnaire completed by the caregiver in a sample of preschool-aged children with ASD and to identify possible differences in a control group of peers. Materials and Methods: Sleep disorders were investigated with the Sleep Disturbance Scale for Children (SDSC) in a population of pre-school-aged (3–5 years) ASD children and in a control group. The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule—second ed. (ADOS-2) was further used to assess autism symptom severity. A total of 84 children (69 males; mean age 3.9 ± 0.8 years) with a diagnosis of ASD and 84 healthy controls (65 males; mean age of 3.7 ± 0.8 years) that were matched for age and sex were enrolled. Results: ASD children reported significantly higher (pathological) scores than the control group on the SDSC total scores and in some of the factor scores, such as Difficulty in Initiating and Maintaining Sleep (DIMS), disorders of excessive somnolence (DOES), and sleep hyperhidrosis. A total of 18% of ASD children had a pathological SDSC total T-score, and 46% had an abnormal score on at least one sleep factor; DIMS, parasomnias, and DOES showed the highest rates among the sleep factors. Younger children (3 years) reported higher scores in DIMS and sleep hyperhidrosis than older ones (4 and 5 years). No specific correlation was found between ADOS-2 and SDSC scores. Conclusions: Pre-school children with ASD showed a high incidence of sleep disorders with different distributions of specific sleep factors according to their age. We suggest a screening assessment of sleep disorders using the SDSC in these children with a more in-depth evaluation for those reporting pathological scores on the questionnaire.
- Sleep disorders
- Pre-school children