About two-thirds of the children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) frequently have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Changes in daily behavior, memory, and learning may occur as a result of poor sleep quality. Sleep problems are common in children with ASD, with early waking, poor sleep efficiency, somnambulism, and delayed sleep-onset latency being among the most common complaints. Inadequate sleep can contribute to excessive daytime sleepiness, which can affect daytime functioning and cognitive capacities in children dealing with autism spectrum disorder. It has been found that disturbance in the production of melatonin is one of the possible causes of sleep problems. Continue reading to learn about what melatonin is and role of melatonin in autism spectrum disorder.
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin, also called the “hormone of darkness,” is a hormone produced primarily by the pineal gland and controlled by the hypothalamus suprachiasmatic nucleus. Melatonin, as one of the key modulators of the sleep-wake cycle, follows a circadian pattern of regulation, with concentrations rising at night and dropping during the day. As a result, melatonin administration at night has become a popular treatment option for insomnia in both children and adults. It also offers advantages for children on the autism spectrum.
Melatonin In Autism Spectrum Disorder:
While the specific mechanisms of sleep problems in children with ASD are unknown, alterations in melatonin regulation pathways may be a major factor in this population’s high prevalence of sleeping difficulties. Melatonin or melatonin metabolites concentrations were found to be lower in children and adults with ASD compared to healthy controls in a study. The greatest of these investigations found that 65 percent of people with ASD had low melatonin levels.
However, several studies have found abnormally low levels of melatonin in people with ASD. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the beginning and duration of sleep. In these cases, a hereditary abnormality in melatonin-signaling proteins has also been discovered.
Melatonin Treatment For ASD:
Behavioral therapies such as sleep habits and positive reinforcement of adaptive sleep behavior are currently the first-line treatment for sleep disorders in children with ASD. Sleep management in children with ASD, on the other hand, is difficult, with just 25% responding to behavioral therapies. If behavioral therapy fails, pharmacotherapy is frequently used, with melatonin having the most evidence of all of the available drugs.
When compared to pre-melatonin treatment, immediate-release melatonin administration increased sleep duration by an average of 73 minutes and decreased sleep onset latency by an average of 66 minutes. Melatonin treatment was also shown to last anywhere from 14 days to more than 4 years, with low to no side effects.
Several clinical investigations have also found that supplementing with melatonin at doses ranging from 0.75 mg to 6 mg before bedtime improves sleep quality in people with ASD.
How To Use Melatonin?
- If you administer melatonin to your child, you must know that it will take them about 30 minutes to still fall asleep. You can use melatonin syrup available in the market orally.
- Along with sleep habits, you can also administer melatonin regularly for as long as it takes for your child to get into a pattern. However, you must consult your developmental pediatrician before doing this.
- Once your child starts sleeping well at night, you can reduce the dosage of melatonin, gradually discontinue it. The dosage and duration must be discussed with your doctor, and you must not prescribe anything prior consultation.
Sleep disturbances are prevalent in children with ASD, and they have an impact on both the kid and the family’s everyday functioning. Melatonin has been shown to improve sleep with few negative effects whether used alone or in combination with behavioral treatment.
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