Article Text

Sleep patterns in children with autistic spectrum disorders: a prospective cohort study


Objective To investigate longitudinal sleep patterns in children with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs).

Study design Prospective longitudinal study using Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, an English cohort born in 1991–1992. Parental reports of sleep duration were collected by questionnaires at 8 time points from 6 months to 11 years. Children with an ASD diagnosis at age 11 years (n=73) were identified from health and education records.

Results From aged 30 months to 11 years old, children with ASD slept for 17–43 min less each day than contemporary controls. No significant difference in total sleep duration was found in infancy, but from 30 months of age children with ASD slept less than their peers, a difference that remained significant after adjusting for sex, ethnicity, high parity and epilepsy. The reduction in total sleep was wholly due to changes in night rather than daytime sleep duration. Night-time sleep duration was shortened by later bedtimes and earlier waking times. Frequent waking (3 or more times a night) was also evident among the children with ASD from 30 months of age. Age-specific decreases of >1SD within individuals in sleep duration across adjacent time points was a predictor of ASD between 18 months and 30 months of age (p=0.04) and from 30 months to 42 months (p=0.02).

Conclusions Sleep duration in children with ASD is reduced from 30 months of age and persists until adolescence.

  • Autism
  • Sleep
  • Neurodevelopment

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 3.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

View Full Text

Statistics from

PDF Container

Supplementary materials

  • Press release

    This web only file has been produced by the BMJ Publishing Group from an electronic file supplied by the author(s) and has not been edited for content.

    Files in this Data Supplement:

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Linked Articles