Links between parent-reported measures of poor sleep and executive function in childhood autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Calliope Holingue, Heather Volk, Deana Crocetti, Bridget Gottlieb, Adam P. Spira, Stewart H. Mostofsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: This study sought to assess whether poor sleep is associated with aspects of executive function (EF) among children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or typical development (TD), after adjusting for demographic variables, stimulant medications, intelligence, anxiety, inattention, and hyperactivity. Design: Cross-sectional. Setting: Children recruited through ongoing studies at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. Participants: We studied 735 children (323 TD; 177 ASD; 235 ADHD) aged 8 to 12 years. Measurements: We investigated associations of parent-reported sleep measures from the Children's Sleep Habits Questionnaire (CSHQ) with parent-report measures of EF and performance-based processing speed with each clinical population. EF was measured using 8 clinical T scores that fall under 2 domains (behavioral regulation and metacognition) from the Behavior Rating Inventory of EF (BRIEF) and the processing speed index from the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-IV or -V. Results: Higher CSHQ scores were associated with poorer EF on all BRIEF scales, across all child groups, after adjustment for demographic factors, stimulant medications, and IQ. Among children with ADHD, these associations largely remained after adjusting for anxiety. Among those ASD, anxiety partially accounted for these associations, especially for behavioral regulation EF outcomes. Co-occurring symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity further accounted for the associations between sleep and EF. Poor sleep was not significantly associated with processing speed. Conclusions: Strong links exist between parent-reported poor sleep and executive dysfunction in children with typical development. Targeting anxiety may alleviate executive dysfunction, especially among children with ASD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-383
Number of pages9
JournalSleep Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • ADHD (attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder)
  • ASD (autism spectrum disorder)
  • Executive function
  • Sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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