Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: Children with neurodevelopmental disorders including autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often experience sleep disturbances, but little is known about when these sleep differences emerge and how they relate to later development. METHODS: We used a prospective longitudinal design in infants with a family history of ASD and/or ADHD to examine infant sleep and its relation to trajectories of attention and later neurodevelopmental disorders. We formed factors of Day and Night Sleep from parent-reported measures (including day/night sleep duration, number of naps in the day, frequency of night awakenings and sleep onset problems). We examined sleep in 164 infants at 5-, 10- and 14-months with/without a first-degree relative with ASD and/or ADHD who underwent a consensus clinical assessment for ASD at age 3. RESULTS: By 14-months, infants with a first-degree relative with ASD (but not ADHD) showed lower Night Sleep scores than infants with no family history of ASD; lower Night Sleep scores in infancy were also associated with a later ASD diagnosis, decreased cognitive ability, increased ASD symptomatology at 3-years, and developing social attention (e.g., looking to faces). We found no such effects with Day Sleep. CONCLUSIONS: Sleep disturbances may be apparent at night from 14-months in infants with a family history of ASD and also those with later ASD, but were not associated with a family history of ADHD. Infant sleep disturbances were also linked to later dimensional variation in cognitive and social skills across the cohort. Night Sleep and Social Attention were interrelated over the first 2 years of life, suggesting that this may be one mechanism through which sleep quality influences neurodevelopment. Interventions targeted towards supporting families with their infant's sleep problems may be useful in this population.

Original publication




Journal article


J Child Psychol Psychiatry

Publication Date





1200 - 1211


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, eye tracking, infancy, sleep, social attention, Child, Humans, Infant, Child, Preschool, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Autistic Disorder, Prospective Studies, Sleep, Sleep Wake Disorders, Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity, Attention