In June last year, I reported on research that found children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) had abnormally low levels of the sleep hormone melatonin. Researchers consequently found that administering melatonin supplements increased sleep duration and reduced the amount of time it took for the children to fall asleep.
Now, new research has reached a similar conclusion. The latest study looked at children aged between three and nine years of age with a clinical diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and whose parents reported that it took them at least 30 minutes to fall asleep on three or more nights per week.
A melatonin supplement was given to the children half an hour before bedtime. Researchers found that most of the children fell asleep faster when given a supplement of either 1mg or 3mg of melatonin. Perhaps even more encouraging, the supplement proved to be effective throughout the first week of treatment and over several subsequent months.
Of course, this doesn't mean you should immediately start giving your child melatonin supplements in a bid to improve their sleep. However, it may be worth discussing your options with your doctor.
These studies certainly are encouraging - but I'm really looking forward to seeing similar studies conducted in the future on a far larger scale.
Last updated: February 20, 2013