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Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland that plays a crucial role in regulating sleep-wake cycles. It has been studied extensively in both adults and children, particularly for its potential to treat sleep disorders. This article aims to provide an informative and easy-to-understand guide on the role of melatonin in pediatric insomnia.
Part I: The Basics of Melatonin
Melatonin is a natural hormone that helps regulate our sleep-wake cycles. It is produced by the pineal gland in response to darkness, with levels peaking at night and decreasing during the day. Melatonin supplements come in two forms: immediate-release (IR) and prolonged-release (PR). These formulations have different effects on sleep and circadian rhythms.
Part II: Melatonin and Pediatric Sleep Disorders
Melatonin has been studied for its potential to treat sleep disorders in children, particularly those with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD), such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It has been found to be effective in treating insomnia associated with delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPD), a condition where individuals have difficulty falling asleep and waking up at conventional times.
Part III: Melatonin as a Symptomatic Treatment for Pediatric Insomnia
Some experts suggest that melatonin, particularly IR melatonin, may have a role in treating pediatric insomnia when sleep hygiene measures and behavioral treatment approaches have not been successful. This recommendation is based on melatonin’s benign safety profile and potential benefits for sleep onset and quality of life for the child and family. However, more research is needed to establish the efficacy of melatonin in pediatric insomnia.
Current scientific evidence supports the use of melatonin, particularly IR melatonin, in treating certain pediatric sleep disorders, such as insomnia associated with NDD or DSPD. Melatonin may also be beneficial for pediatric insomnia when first-line treatments have failed, and other underlying sleep disorders have been ruled out. More research is needed to explore the efficacy of PR melatonin in pediatric insomnia beyond autism and neurogenetic disorders, and to compare the effects of IR and PR melatonin in different types of pediatric insomnia.