A new study is showing that the quality of sleep children with autism and other neurological impairments affects overall cognitive function and performance on intelligence tests. This new study was performed by researchers at the Hôpital Rivière-des-Prairies, The research was published in the Internation Journal of Psychophysiology.
For this study, researchers obeserved the EEG measures of 13 autistic children and 13 neurotypical children, and all of the children were the average age of 10. These neurotypical children did not have an intellectual deficiency or sleep problems, and they were also not on medication at the time. The researchers found that there were distruptions in the protective brain waves during sleep, which were then associated with lower results on various intellectual tests.
The brain waves that demonstrated good sleep consolidation in the children were measured during the laboratory. The markets of light sleep, which are known as “sleep spindles” occur during one of the sleep phases that repeats throughout the night, which is when the metabolism slows down and the brain is resting. The researchers observed that the more often the children had these waves throughout the night, the better the children did on intellectual tests, and the more cognitive function they had. The quality of sleep overnight as a whole promoting intellectual functioning, and this applied for both groups of children. The researchers did note however that the sleep waves and the cognitive performance did vary a little between the autistic children and the neurotypical children. This was because different brain regions are involved in the processes for each of the groups.
The study confirms that sleeping well does play a huge role in cognitive development, and it also can help find new and more effective treatments for children who have sleep disorders. The study also does give some hope to parents who have autistic children because there could be new treatments coming for insomnia in children with autism or autism spectrum disorder. Overall, this study helps establish that both children and teenagers are severely affected by the quality of sleep they get, which does affect study results and other types of intellectual testings. In Canada, 45 to 85 percent of autistic children have sleep problems, and 10 to 25 percent of adolescents have sleep issues.
The biggest part of the study is that this shows how important sleep is for people overall, whether they are autistic or they are cognitively functional with no disorders. Due to how technology is also keeping teenagers awake at night, this new study shows just how important it is to also turn off electronics so that the blue screen is not disturbing sleep patterns throughout the night either. Researchers are hoping that new sleep treatments will soon become available for both children with neurological issues and with autism in general, which can actually lessen the symptoms of the diseases.