Sleep problems among children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)- an explorative study

Dylag, K.A., Bando, B., Baran, Z. et al. Sleep problems among children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)- an explorative study. Ital J Pediatr 47, 113 (2021).



Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) is a group of conditions resulting from prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE). Patients with FASD experience a variety of neuropsychological symptoms resulting from central nervous system impairment. Little is known about sleep disorders associated with PAE. The objective of this study was to investigate sleep problems related to FASD.


Forty patients (median age 8 years (6; 11)) diagnosed with FASD and forty typically developing children (median age 10 years (8; 13)) were recruited for the 1st phase of the study. In the 1st phase, the screening of sleep problems was performed with Child Sleep Habit Questionnaire (CSHQ) filled in by a caregiver. Those of the FASD group who scored above 41 points were qualified to the 2nd phase of the study and had an in-lab attended polysomnography (PSG) performed. The measurements consisted of electroencephalogram, electrooculograms, chin and tibial electromyogram, electrocardiogram, ventilatory monitoring, breathing effort, pulse oximetry, snoring and body position. Their results were compared to PSG laboratory reference data.


The number of participants with sleep disturbances was markedly higher in the FASD group as compared to typically developing children (55% vs. 20%). The age-adjusted odds ratio for a positive result in CSHQ was 4.31 (95% CI: 1.54–12.11; p = 0.005) for FASD patients as compared to the control group. Significant differences between the FASD as compared to the typically developing children were observed in the following subscales: sleep onset delay, night wakings, parasomnias, sleep disordered breathing, and daytime sleepiness. Children from the FASD group who underwent PSG experienced more arousals during the sleep as compared with the PSG laboratory reference data. The respiratory indices in FASD group appear higher than previously published data from typically developing children.


The results support the clinical observation that sleep disorders appear to be an important health problem in individuals with FASD. In particular distorted sleep architecture and apneic/hypopneic events need further attention.

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