Boys with autism who have screens – TVs, computers, or video game-related devices – in their bedrooms may not be getting enough sleep, according to research from the University of Missouri.
"Previous research has shown that bedroom access to screen-based media is associated with less time spent sleeping in the general population," notes Christopher Engelhardt, a post-doctoral research fellow at the Thompson Center for Autism and Developmental Disorders at the University of Missouri. "We found that this relationship is stronger among boys with autism."
The study, which was recently published in Pediatrics examined the relationship between media use and sleep habits among boys with autism compared to typically developing boys or boys with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Researchers surveyed parents of boys with ASD, parents of boys with ADHD, and parents of typically developing boys about their children’s hours of media use each day, bedroom access to media, and the average hours of sleep they received per night.
They found a correlation between bedroom access to a television or computer and reduced sleep among boys with autism. They also found that average video-game exposure was related to less time spent sleeping among the boys with ASD.
"Even though our findings are preliminary, parents should be aware that media use may have an effect on sleep, especially for children with autism," Engelhardt says. "If children are having sleep problems, parents might consider monitoring and possibly limiting their children’s media use, especially around bedtime."
Future research will explore the processes by which bedroom access to media could contribute to sleep disturbances in children with ASD.
"Our current results were cross-sectional, meaning that we are not able to determine whether pre-bedtime media exposure causes some children with autism to sleep less,” Engelhardt says. "However, the relationship between bedroom media access and sleep was particularly large among boys with autism, suggesting that we should continue to carefully research this possibility."
Engelhardt also emphasized that not all screen time is bad, particularly for children with autism.
"It is also important to note that some media use may also be beneficial for children with autism," Engelhardt says. "Future research is also needed to determine how video games and other technologies may be helpful in teaching and reinforcing skills and behaviors."
Source: University of Missouri