The current study examined the relationships between media use (television, computer, and video games) and sleep among boys with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) compared with those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or with typical development (TD).
Participants included parents of boys with ASD (n = 49), ADHD (n = 38), or TD (n = 41) (ages 8–17 years). Questionnaires assessed daily hours of media use, bedroom access to media, and average sleep hours per night.
Bedroom media access was associated with less time spent sleeping per night, irrespective of diagnostic group. Bedroom access to a television or a computer was more strongly associated with reduced sleep among boys with ASD compared with boys with ADHD or TD. Multivariate models showed that, in addition to bedroom access, the amount of time spent playing video games was uniquely associated with less sleep among boys with ASD. In the ASD group only, the relationship between bedroom access to video games and reduced sleep was mediated by hours of video game play.
The current results suggest that media-related variables may be an important consideration in understanding sleep disturbances in children with ASD. Further research is needed to better characterize the processes by which media use may affect sleep among individuals with ASD. Overall, the current findings suggest that screen-based media time and bedroom media access should be routinely assessed and may be important intervention targets when addressing sleep problems in children with ASD.