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New study looks at effects melatonin has on sleep disorders in children

Although melatonin is increasingly prescribed as a treatment for sleep disturbance disorders in children with learning disabilities there has been limited research into its effectiveness.
Study looks at use of melatonin has on sleep disorders in children

Although melatonin is increasingly prescribed as a treatment for sleep disturbance disorders in children with learning disabilities there has been limited research into its effectiveness.

This study assessed 45 children: 29 with a non-specific learning disability, nine with autistic spectrum disorders and seven with hyperactivity disorders. All had sleep disorders that were treated with melatonin.

The research team compared participants sleep patterns before and during melatonin use, using sleep diaries. They considered the hours of sleep gained, sleep onset patterns and how often the children woke at night.

The use of melatonin was carefully monitored and doses were increased if lower doses were ineffective.

Mixed responses

While 38% of children responded favourably to low doses of 2.5-3mg of melatonin, 31% responded to medium doses of 5-6mg and

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Although melatonin is increasingly prescribed as a treatment for sleep disturbance disorders in children with learning disabilities there has been limited research into its effectiveness.

sleep disturbed child
Study looks at effects melatonin has on sleep disorders in children. Picture: Alamy

This study assessed 45 children: 29 with a non-specific learning disability, nine with autistic spectrum disorders and seven with hyperactivity disorders. All had sleep disorders that were treated with melatonin.

The research team compared participants’ sleep patterns before and during melatonin use, using sleep diaries. They considered the hours of sleep gained, sleep onset patterns and how often the children woke at night.

The use of melatonin was carefully monitored and doses were increased if lower doses were ineffective.

Mixed responses

While 38% of children responded favourably to low doses of 2.5-3mg of melatonin, 31% responded to medium doses of 5-6mg and 9% needed higher doses of 9-10mg. No adverse side effects were found.

Melatonin was found to be effective and safe for children with learning disabilities with sleep problems. A small percentage needed higher doses.

Many parents and professionals are reluctant to use medication as a first-point response to child sleep problems and the effects of behavioural and relaxation approaches have not been compared here to melatonin use.

It would be useful if these comparisons were made, however such startlingly positive results are extremely welcome.


Ayyah H et al (2015) Melatonin for sleep disturbance in children with neurodevelopmental disorders: prospective observational naturalistic study. Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics. 15, 6, 711-7. doi: 10.1586/14737175.2015.1041511

 

Research round-up is compiled by Stacey Atkinson, learning disability nursing lead at the Univeristy of Huddersfield

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