Does sleep behaviour affect language in children with and without DLD?

Botting, N., & Baraka, N. (2018). Sleep behaviour relates to language skills in children with and without communication disorders. International Journal of Developmental Disabilities, 64(4-5), 238-243. https://doi.org/10.1080/20473869.2017.1283766


Aim of the paper


Past research has found that sleep quality is important for language learning and development in children. Many studies looking at the relationship between sleep quality and language have focused on children who have sleep problems, but not looked at children who have a disorder that affects language. This study looked at the relationship between sleep quality and language in children with either Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) or Autism Spectrum Disorder. DLD and autism are both considered communication disorders because they affect language, hearing and/or speech. The study investigated whether sleep patterns differ between 65 children with and without communication disorders, and whether sleep difficulties were related to language ability.


What was found


  • Children who had a communication disorder took more time to get to sleep and were more likely to wake up very early for their age.

  • There was no difference in bedtimes, the time spent asleep or the number of night wakings between children with and without a communication disorder.

  • There was not much difference in restlessness or irregular breathing during sleep, though these were slightly more common in children with a communication disorder.

  • Language ability was related to sleep behaviour, in particular the time it took to get to sleep.

  • Taking longer to get to sleep was associated with poorer semantic and pragmatic language ability in both children with and without a communication disorder.

  • Sleep duration was also related to parent-reported expressive and receptive communication difficulties.


What does this mean?


Children with DLD or autism, which are considered communication disorders, had more sleep difficulties than children without a communication disorder. Sleep behaviours were related to expressive and receptive communication difficulties as well as semantic and pragmatic language ability. These findings support past research of a relationship between sleep quality and language difficulties. Poorer sleep may affect language development in children with communication disorders, though there are many suggestions for why this could be. The findings suggest that it may be helpful to discuss sleep behaviours in clinical assessments of children with language difficulties, and possibly provide sleep interventions or strategies.


Where can I read this paper?


This paper is not open access. If you wish to read the full paper, please email E-DLD@bath.ac.uk and request a copy of the paper.