A new study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine shows that melatonin supplements may be helpful for children with autism.
The small study involved 12 children between the ages of 2 and 15 years. Each child had either autistic spectrum disorder, fragile X syndrome, or both problems. The children took 3 mg of melatonin 30 minutes before bedtime for two weeks.
Results show that melatonin improved three aspects of their sleep. The children slept for an average of 21 more minutes each night. The length of time it took them to fall asleep was 28 minutes shorter. And the time of night when they fell asleep was 42 minutes earlier.
The study reports that sleep problems are common in children with autism. Senior author Beth L. Goodlin-Jones, PhD, told the AASM that these problems can affect the entire family.
“Sleep-onset problems at the beginning of the night are very troublesome for children and their families,” said Goodlin-Jones. “Sometimes children may take one to two hours to fall asleep, and often they disrupt the household during this time.”
According to the authors, other studies have suggested that children with autism or fragile X syndrome may have abnormal melatonin levels. This hormone plays an important role in regulating sleep.
The authors also report that other strategies can improve sleep problems in these children. Options include behavior therapy and good sleep hygiene.
The NINDS estimates that three to six out of every 1,000 children have autism. Males are four times more likely than females to have it. Other forms of autistic spectrum disorder include Asperger syndrome and Rett syndrome.
The NINDS also reports that children with autism have a higher risk of fragile X syndrome. This genetic condition can cause mental retardation.
Learn more about melatonin at SleepEducation.com.