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January 2011



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Bethany Sciortino

Bedtime is often the most stressful part of a day for a family who has a child with autism. Not only is it extremely challenging to get an overstimulated child to go to and stay in their bed, but it is near impossible to get them to sleep. When the kicking and screaming subsides and your child finally drifts into dreamland, it is not uncommon to find them bright eyed at 3 in the morning next to your bedside. Research shows that up to 70% of children with autism suffer from sleep disturbances and while the reason is still largely unclear, there does seem to be some evidence that points to an irregular production of melatonin, your body’s natural sleep hormone.

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, a small gland in the brain, and in most healthy children and adults is regulated by the light and dark patterns of day and night. During the day when your body is exposed to light, your pineal gland produces very little melatonin and as dusk and evening appear, your body produces more melatonin causing you to become sleepy and rest at night. In autistic children, there is a disruption in the production of melatonin making it hard for the body to feel the natural instinct of desiring rest.

Children who take melatonin have been shown to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, and ultimately helps their bodies self-synchronize sleep patterns. Melatonin supplements are available over the counter and are considered to have no side effects. Generally, most children will benefit from a low dose of .5 to 1 milligram taken 20- 30 minutes before bedtime. Supplementing your child with melatonin should always be accompanied by a consistent bedtime routine which limits stimulating activities such as television and video games several hours before sleep, and implementing relaxation techniques such as joint compressions, light massage, reading or soft music. Lighting should be low and the noise level should be kept moderate, as well.

Read in Full:  http://www.examiner.com/autism-parenting-in-orlando/melatonin-sweet-dreams-for-autistic-children

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