Sleep problems and daytime problem behaviours in children with intellectual disability


Correspondence: R. Didden, University of Nijmegen, Department of Special Education, Room A.05.03, PO Box 9104, 6500 HE Nijmegen, the Netherlands (e-mail:




Sleep problems are common among children with intellectual disability (ID).


The present study assessed the prevalence of severe sleep problems in a sample of children (n=286) with mild to profound ID who lived at home with their parents(s) in the Netherlands. It also explored relationships between severe sleep problems, and family and child variables. Demographic information, data on children's sleep behaviours and parent variables were collected using questionnaires.


Severe settling problems, night waking and early waking were present in 4.2%, 10.8% and 4.2% of cases, respectively; 16.1% of children had at least one type of sleep problem. Children with a severe sleep problem had more severe levels of ID, used medication more often, had a greater frequency of epilepsy, were younger, had a greater frequency of cerebral palsy, and showed more daytime drowsiness and daytime napping than children without a severe sleep problem. Furthermore, children with a severe sleep problem showed more severe levels of daytime problem behaviours; for example, aggression, non-compliance and hyperactivity.


The results of the present study are discussed with regard to the assessment and treatment of sleep problems in children with ID.