Melatonin: To Sleep or Not to Sleep
Any parent who has a kiddo with Autism is probably aware of the sleep disorders that often walk hand-in-hand with ASD. Some kids refuse to fall asleep (no matter how tired their little bodies are). Other kids fall asleep, but wake up several times throughout the night. Still other kids have backward sleep schedules where they are up all night and struggle with staying awake during the day. Sound familiar? Not only does not sleeping take its toll on your child, but it takes its toll on you.
Research suggests that up to 80% of children on the Autism spectrum suffer from sleeping issues. This means that up to 80% of parents aren’t getting a solid night of sleep either. Sleep is critical for optimal child development and it’s pretty important for Mom and Dad to function in their daily lives too.
Meet Your New Best Friend: Melatonin
Melatonin is a hormone that is found naturally in the human body. Many organic markets offer a manufactured version of melatonin both in pill and liquid form. Research suggests that melatonin helps regulate the sleep/wake cycle in many people including children with Autism, ADHD and other developmental and behavior disorders. Parents who struggle with getting their child to sleep at night, or struggle with having their child wake up in the middle of the night have tried (and love) the results from a few drops of melatonin before bed.
Here’s what I recommend before trying Melatonin:
- Speak with your child’s pediatrician first, before using Melatonin with your child, to rule out any possible underlying medical condition. Often times, an undiagnosed medical condition can create problems with sleep for children.
- Speak with your child’s pediatrician about the pros and cons of trying Melatonin to promote sleep for your little one
- I suggest trying the liquid form as it can be easily administered in the mouth on the side of the cheek or under the tongue, for quick absorption. Make sure to use the smallest allowed dose at first, and adjust from there. Have you pediatrician recommend the appropriate dosage for your child and keep strict records of dosing amounts and all behaviors reported.
- Be sure to keep your child on a schedule. If you usually have dinner at 6pm and then they have their bath at 7pm, try administering the Melatonin after their bath, and before bed.
- Plan on at least 7 nights before seeing results. While this is the average length of time for positive sleep pattern changes, your child may require less (or more) time depending on factors such as hyperactivity, severity of behaviors, developmental functioning level, etc.
- Keep a journal including the following:
- What time you administer the Melatonin
- How long it takes your child to fall asleep
- Sleep changes witnessed including how long they sleep, and any behaviors
- Give this information to your child’s pediatrician to help track and monitor the Melatonin
- Breathe! Once your little one starts having a more restful night of sleep, guess what? YOU now get a more restful night sleep! Time to cash in on some snooze time!
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