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Many children with special needs, including ADHD and autism, have difficulty sleeping. For a lot of parents, melatonin presents the solution. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone, but is also available as a supplement you can buy. In some countries, melatonin can be purchased over the counter – with no prescription required.
In the medical community there is debate about whether or not melatonin should be used in children. The focus of this debate centers around the safety of using melatonin in children when most studies on melatonin were done with adults. There is also some concern that since melatonin is a hormone it could interfere with other hormones in children.
One study done in the UK found melatonin to be helpful in children with developmental disorders who had sleep problems. Another study on children with ADHD and sleep problems found melatonin to be an effective sleep aid with no safety concerns noted.
Of course if your child has trouble sleeping, it is best to try traditional sleep aids and methods first including:
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- Establish a set bedtime and bedtime routine for your child
- Remove foods and drinks with lots of sugar and/or caffeine from your child’s diet – particularly in the few hours before bedtime
- Try and get your child to do a relaxing activity like reading before bed
- Avoid letting your child play with video and computer games in the hours or so before bedtime
- Try blackout blinds or curtains in your child’s bedroom if too much light is a problem
- Make sure your child uses the bathroom right before bedtime to avoid waking up later
- If you child is taking any type of stimulant medication, like Ritalin, check with your doctor about whether or not the dosage or time that your child takes the medication needs to be adjusted.
If your child’s sleeping trouble persists, talk to her doctor and see if she needs to be evaluated for any other disorder like sleep apnea. You can also speak with your child’s doctor about whether or not you should try melatonin.
©Mary M Conneely T/A Advocacy in Action