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Melatonin Helps Autistic Kids Sleep

Study Shows No Side Effects From Low-Dose Supplements of Melatonin

Synchronizing Natural Sleep Patterns continued...

The children are continuing to take the supplements, and the researchers plan to see how they're sleeping after six months.

"There's some evidence that the melatonin supplements synchronize the natural sleep pattern and you can stop giving it after six months to a year," Malow says.

Proper sleep hygiene is a huge part of the equation, Malow stresses. "If kids watch videos late at night, that's going to interfere with their sleep. They'll be all hyped up, and the light will interfere with the body's own melatonin," she says.

The researchers also plan to collect blood and urine samples to confirm whether children with autism are deficient in melatonin and whether supplementation brings levels back to normal.

Zimmerman, who was not involved with the work, tells WebMD that he often prescribes supplemental melatonin to his young patients with autism.

"It's readily available and easy to use," he says. "My experience is that it helps to get them to sleep, but doesn't always help them stay asleep. I'm glad to see the children in the study had longer sleep duration."

The big question is how long to give melatonin to children, he says. "This is important work as it helps answer that question."

Once the safety and effectiveness of supplemental melatonin is confirmed in more children, the researchers plan to conduct a larger trial pitting melatonin and behavioral therapy against behavioral therapy alone, Malow says.


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