A few months ago I participated in a Sleep Study through OTARC and it is an honour today to have Parise Nichole Gentikoglou guest posting at Stuff With Thing with some preliminary results. Sleep (or rather a lack of) is a huge issue in our family and I know from recent discussions that many other families with children on the Autism Spectrum suffer from sleep issues and all the related challenges.
My name is Parise Nichole Gentikoglou and I finished a Bachelor of Psychological Science, Honours, at La Trobe University in 2011. For my Honours, I completed a research project entitled “Sleep Quality and Psychological Well-being in Mothers of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder”, with my supervisor, Associate Professor Amanda Richdale, Principal Research Fellow at the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre.
My study examined how sleep and behavioural difficulties in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) impact on mothers’ sleep quality and psychological well-being; this has not been looked at before for mothers of children with ASD. We were interested in the quality of mothers’ and children’s sleep, as research tells us that poor sleep in children is often associated with mothers’ poor sleep and psychological well-being. We also looked at children’s behaviour problems and mothers’ fatigue, and symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress. Mothers completed questionnaires about themselves and their child with ASD, and kept sleep diaries for a week. We were able to examine questionnaires from 25 mothers and their children, and sleep diaries from 22 mothers and their children.
The results of our study indicated that poor sleep and behaviour problems in children were related to poor sleep quality in mothers. On examining the sleep diaries, we found that the less time the children spent asleep, the more time the mothers tended to be awake per night. In addition, the more daytime sleepiness experienced by the children, the less refreshed the mothers felt. Poor sleep and problematic behaviour in children were related with higher levels of fatigue, and more symptoms of anxiety in mothers. Children’s problematic behaviour was also associated with increases in mothers’ stress, and symptoms of depression.
Together, children’s poor sleep and problematic behaviour had a negative impact on mothers’ sleep quality. In addition, children’s sleep and behaviour problems, and poor maternal sleep had a negative effect on mothers’ levels of fatigue, and anxiety. Furthermore, children’s problematic behaviour and mothers’ poor sleep had a negative impact on mothers’ stress, and symptoms of depression. Overall, our results suggest that both sleep and behaviour in children with ASD can have a significant negative impact on mothers’ sleep quality and psychological well-being. We plan to publish these findings and we hope that our findings will encourage future research on treatments for poor sleep in children with ASD, and the provision of supports for their families.
If you have any questions about our study, you can contact me (Parise Nichole Gentikoglou, firstname.lastname@example.org), or my supervisor (Associate Professor Amanda Richdale, 9479 1742, email@example.com).