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Introduction: Sleep is one of the most important components of overall health. Children with developmental disabilities are at a higher risk of having sleep disturbances.
Purpose: The goal of the present study is to compare sleep patterns of children with developmental disabilities with those of typically developing children. In particular we examined whether children with intellectual disability (ID), children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and typically developing children differ in sleep duration, number of night’s waking, screen time, and outdoor activities.
Methods: The sample for this study consisted of 114 children (34 children with ASD, 40 children with ID and 40 typically developing children) aged 2 to 14 years (mean age= 6.4 years, SD = 3.0). Information on children’s sleep patterns was obtained through the online survey of parents of children. We also collected information regarding the strategies parents use to put their children to sleep, as well as the information regarding the screen time and outdoor activities.
Results: The results of this study indicate that sleep duration was shortest for children with ID and longest for children without developmental disabilities. Another finding in this study is that screen time and not the outdoor activities was associated with sleep duration. Children with ASD were more likely to use melatonin to fall asleep, while the children with ID were more likely to use medications.
Conclusion: Children with ID have shorter sleep duration than children with ASD and typically developing children. Parents have several cognitive and behavioral strategies at their disposal to improve their children’s sleep.