For a little background on our sleep troubles, see this post.
Melatonin is my new hero. We have had 2 whole weeks of restful, full nights of sleep. “We” meaning, me, G, and both M and M2. Maybe it is still too soon to call. After all, in the past we have had random months of success. However, none of these past sleep successes were as directly related to a change. We started giving M a 1/2 mg of melatonin a half hour before bedtime. He goes to sleep easily and sleeps through the night 10 to 11 hours. He wakes up happy. He still naps well at daycare, he doesn’t get as grumpy in the afternoons. On some nights, he wakes up to pee but then just falls back asleep easily. Usually without our help. We just hear his little pitter patter back and forth to his potty. He has woken a few nights in the middle of the night and called out for us but he usually falls back asleep quickly without a meltdown or any form of distress. Seriously, it seems like a miracle.
Better sleep is leading to better days, and a much happier household around here.
Of course, this miracle does not come with “no strings attached.” A quick google search for melatonin and children will bring up tons of articles that say, don’t give it to kids, or take it yourself. Some of the headlines:
However, I am never content to just let the internet interpret “research” for me with clickbait. I understand the underlying concerning principle, that you are giving your child hormone therapy. The general recommendation before starting melatonin is to find the underlying cause of the sleep problems. Hmmmm. I think the underlying cause is that my son’s brain chemistry is a bit off, or more likely way off. We haven’t had a sleep study done, but I can tell you with nearly 100% certainty that my sensory sensitive child couldn’t give an accurate result of a normal night’s sleep attached to monitors and sensors in an unfamiliar environment. My best guess is that he has a melatonin deficiency or a problem with processing melatonin. The problem in general with research is that if it is done on a neurotypical population, it is hard to relate to a kid with significant changes in brain structure.
After hearing Dr. Ira Chasnoff speak a few weeks ago, I understand so much more about the structure of the brain. He talked a lot about the damaging effects of alcohol on the Corpus Callosum. Sitting right under the Corpus Callosum is the pineal gland. The pineal gland is the little guy responsible for making all the melatonin. Just the proximity makes me think that chances are that M has some pineal gland abnormalities. Any one looking for a research topic on FASD? Let’s measure some pineal gland volume by MRI and relate it to sleep issues. These HAVE to be related.
We already have a bedtime routine, limit “white light” before bedtime, use white noise, diffuse lavender or other calming oils, etc. Everything that has been recommended, I try. Nothing has worked as well as a small dose of melatonin.
Here’s where things stand. I feel compelled to quit the melatonin. It’s been two weeks of glorious sleep. I wonder if now his sleep patterns are once again regulated. Probably not, as the melatonin certainly can’t fix underlying structural brain problems. But before I give up my miracle, I want to know what is known. Do the risks really outweigh the benefits? The risks from not getting enough sleep seem far worse in my mind. Here’s a literature review for what I found during a quick search:
This study was done on kids with ADHD who were having sleep onset issues. From the abstract:
Long-term melatonin treatment was judged to be effective against sleep onset problems in 88% of the cases. Improvement of behaviour and mood was reported in 71% and 61% respectively. We conclude that melatonin remains an effective therapy on the long term for the treatment of CSOI in children with ADHD and has no safety concerns regarding serious adverse events or treatment related co-morbidity.
This study says, yes, Melatonin works for kids with neurodevelopmental disorders. It is not a placebo effect.
Summary: Melatonin is safe for adults. However, kids and adolescents have not been studied. It doesn’t say it is harmful, it just says we should probably research it.
I didn’t find anything about the risks but the problem seems to be lack of research. I remain hesitant about administering the melatonin but also not willing to give it up just yet.