AUTHORS: Bartakovičová, K., Keményová, P., Belica, I., Janík Szapuová, Ž., Stebelová, K., Waczulikova, I., Ostatnikova, D., Babinska, K.

ABSTRACT: In children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), sleep disturbances are a frequent comorbidity with an adverse effect on their behavior and functioning. It was suggested that melatonin deficit is at least partly responsible for the sleep problems. The study aimed to investigate, in a sample of 56 children with ASD aged 2.8–13.3 years, if the sleep problems and melatonin secretion can serve as predictors of adaptive functioning and severity of the ASD core symptoms. We demonstrated that, after adjustment for age, the Sleep score assessed by the Children’s Sleep Habits Questionnaire predicts the Adaptive behavior composite score only in children younger than 6 years, and the preferred predictive model is for the domain Socialization. The age-adjusted Sleep score predicted Externalizing and Internalizing maladaptive behavior, with a near-zero contribution of age to the relationship between the Internalizing maladaptive behavior and Sleep score. After adjustment for age, the reduced night-time melatonin secretion predicted a higher severity of ASD symptoms in the domain Social affect and the Calibrated Severity Score, but not the sleep problems. Our results emphasize the importance of assessing sleep problems as a modifiable predictor of behavior in children with ASD and support the hypothesis about the role of melatonin in pathophysiology of ASD.

Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19, 7594