Melatonin Helps Autistic Kids Sleep
Study Shows No Side Effects From Low-Dose Supplements of Melatonin
WebMD News Archive
Importance of Good Sleep Habits continued...
One milligram a night did the trick for three of the 11 youngsters, Malow
says. Six required 3 milligrams, and only two children needed 6 milligrams, she
They also slept longer, and parents reported they had less trouble getting
their kids to agree to go to sleep, Malow reports.
Additionally, the children exhibited fewer of the compulsive and ritualistic
behaviors that can accompany autism, she says.
The findings were presented here at the annual meeting of the American
Synchronizing Natural Sleep Patterns
While there have been reports of bed-wetting, seizures, and daytime
drowsiness among children given melatonin supplements, "we didn't see any of
those problems. These are relatively small doses and they seem benign," Malow
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,"
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.