Children with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) and Autism Spectrum Disorders
(ASD) experience significantly higher rates of sleep disturbances than their typically developing (TD) peers. Pre-sleep anxiety and waking emotional content is known to affect the content and frequency of nightmares, which can be distressing to children and caregivers.
This is the first study to analyse nightmare frequency and content in FASD, and to assess its association with psychometric outcomes. Using online caregiver questionnaires, we assessed reports from 277 caregivers of children with ASD (n = 61), FASD (n = 112), and TD children (n = 104) using the Children’s Sleep Habits Questionnaire (CSHQ), the Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL), the Spence Children’s Anxiety Scale (SCAS), and the Behaviour Rating Inventory for Executive Functioning (BRIEF).
Within the ASD group, 40.3% of caregivers reported their children had nightmares. Within the FASD group, 73.62% of caregivers reported their children had nightmares, and within the TD group, 21.36% of caregivers reported their children had nightmares.
Correlation analysis revealed significant associations between anxiety and nightmares, maladaptive behaviour and nightmares, and executive functioning and nightmares in the
TD and FASD groups, but not ASD group.
This paper adds to the emerging body of work supporting the need for sleep interventions as part of clinical practice with regard to children with ASD and FASD. As a relatively niche but important area of study, this warrants much needed further research.