The autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition, frequently accompanied by medical and psychiatric pathology. One of the most commonly found problems associated with ASD is sleep disturbances, which are estimated to affect approximately 80% of the people with ASD, not only during childhood but also in the adolescence and adult stages. Nevertheless, the relationship of these sleep difficulties with autism severity, as well as other associated impairments such as executive functioning and psychiatric disorders (eg, depression), has not yet been widely studied. The main objective of the present study was to explore the relationship between sleep disturbances, subjective measures of executive function, and psychiatric pathology in the ASD population. To reach that goal, a group of 89 participants with ASD (44 children/adolescents and 45 adults) was recruited and evaluated with self-reported measures of executive function performance and psychiatric pathology tests. Multivariate analysis showed a significant association between sleep disturbances and psychiatric symptoms in both ASD groups, with greater sleep disturbances predicting more severe psychiatric pathology. No significant association was found with executive function in any group. Limitations included a small sample size and lack of objective measures. Sleep problems seem to be associated with the severity of psychiatric pathology throughout the lifespan, increasing the chance of developing psychiatric symptoms when they were present. Improving sleep quality in ASD at all ages may result in preventing and/or decreasing psychiatric pathology in this population.
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