Early Sleep in Children at Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Lead Academic; Dr Victoria Knowland (York)
Dr Heidi Christensen – Sheffield
Dr Anna Weighall – Leeds
This study has dual aims. The primary aim is to assess the feasibility of measuring sleep behaviour in infants at risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) unobtrusively, over a prolonged period of time. The secondary aim is to collect preliminary, novel data on the relationship between sleep patterns in infants at risk of ASD, and the emergence of symptoms associated with ASD.
As many as 86%  of children with ASD present with chronic sleep disturbances, with the degree of these
disturbances being associated with symptom severity  and vocabulary development. Although
questionnaire-based data suggest an association between sleep measures in infancy and ASD symptomology at 36 months, the emergence of sleep difficulties in this population has barely been explored. If sleep is relevant to the aetiology and progress of ASD then sleep difficulties may emerge in parallel with, or even precede, the earliest daytime behaviours (which can be difficult to detect), opening up the possibility that analysis of sleep patterns could assist with early diagnosis and intervention.
Other people involved with this project
Prof Gareth Gaskell & Dr Lisa Henderson – York
Prof Guy Brown – Sheffield
Prof Mark Gilthorpe – Leeds

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