Is there anything worse than a child who can’t
get to sleep? Okay, maybe a relentlessly crying kid whose having a temper
tantrum in public. But for parents of children
with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who can’t fall asleep
easily, there could be a new solution: melatonin.
A new study published recently
analyzed reams of data on the efficacy and safety of melatonin for treating
insomnia in children with ADHD and the authors indicate it can be a safe and
helpful way to improve the falling-asleep process for these young insomniacs. Here
is what they found:
is a hormone your body produces to help it regulate
your sleep-wake cycles; it usually starts pumping out of your pineal gland
after it has become dark outside and your body prepares for bedtime. When melatonin
levels in the blood rise, you begin to feel less alert and sleep becomes more
- Children with
ADHD usually have trouble falling asleep, which can have tremendous consequences to both their health and
family life. Less sleep means a less-than-optimal refreshment of the brain
and body during the night.
- Giving 3 to 6 mg of melatonin within a few
hours of bedtime has been shown to help kids with ADHD overcome some of their
insomnia and improve their sleep. “Kids” in most cases reviewed in the study
meant 6 to 14 years of age.
But hold on: There were several things about this
study that would make me not just jump on the bandwagon to try Melatonin in
- Melatonin is a
hormone, most kids produce plenty of Melatonin, it just might not be at the
time of day when parents want them to go to sleep.
- We have no idea
what Melatonin will do to kids over the long term.
- A dosage of
3-6mg is between 3 and 6 times the dose that is needed in adults – could this
be an over dosage?
While this research is very
important in our understanding of ADHD and sleep, I would not consider placing a child on Melatonin without working
with both a sleep specialist and the child’s pediatrician. There’s a lot to be said for
instilling good sleep
hygiene habits in your kids early on. They should be adhering to a
pretty strict routine every night that has them:
- Performing the same bedtime routine every night (winding down, getting ready for bed, brushing
teeth, being read to or reading on their own, etc.).
- Going to bed at the same time 7 days a week.
- Avoiding stimulants within (at least!) an hour of bedtime. This includes
electronics and digital media like the television, computer, and cell phone.
If your kids don’t currently
keep a regular bedtime routine, start there. The best prescription for a good
night’s sleep could be in your children’s habits—regardless of any other
condition like ADHD. Besides, who wants their children to have trouble sleeping
before they even reach the throes of those oft sleep-deprived teen years? They
need all the sleep they can get.
Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor™
Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/thesleepdoctor