Melatonin for Kids With ADHD
If you or your child has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you may be looking for natural ways to improve their sleeping habits, and melatonin may be the answer. Melatonin is a natural hormone that can be taken in supplement form, which has shown promise for improving sleep patterns in children who have ADHD. You may want to consider heading to your local natural health food store and picking up a bottle of this supplement to see if it helps your child get a better night’s sleep. Now, let's take a deeper look at melatonin for kids with ADHD.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally supplied by the body that helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. It is produced by the pineal gland, which is located on the back portion of the third ventricle of the brain.
When it comes to sleep regulation, melatonin is considered an endocrine hormone that helps to regulate the body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm. Contrary to popular belief, this inner system does not rely purely on melatonin; it is also run by the central nervous system. Melatonin’s role is to tell the body when it is time to sleep by making us drowsy, and it also helps to drop our body temperature.
Can Melatonin Help Kids With ADHD?
While melatonin, taken in supplement form, cannot improve overall ADHD symptoms, it can improve sleeping habits in children with ADHD. Melatonin is considered safe and effective for short-term use.
Although there is no evidence that melatonin helps with anything other than sleep, and it does not necessarily make a child sleep longer, it can help them fall asleep faster and improve their sleep quality through the night. Resolving insomnia and its consequences can go a long way toward improving your child’s quality of life.
In order for a child to function optimally, they need 9 to 11 hours of quality sleep each night. There is strong evidence that has shown how beneficial and restorative sleep is, and how it is especially important for children during their developmental years.
Is Melatonin Safe?
While melatonin has fewer side effects compared to traditional sleeping aids, a child may still experience:
- Daily drowsiness.
- Head feeling heavier than usual.
- Mild stomach discomfort.
However, often these side effects only occur when melatonin is taken in combination with other medications that are not typically taken by children, including: birth control pills, blood pressure medication, diabetic medication, etc.
In studies, doctors have administered 3 to 5 milligrams per day over short-term periods, and this is considered risk-free. However, no research has investigated the risks of long-term use of this supplement.
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Sleep Disturbances in Children With ADHD
Melatonin starts being produced as soon as the sun sets, and production drops in the morning when the sun rises. The amount of melatonin that is made by the body depends on two factors:
- The amount of light you get during the day.
- Your personal body clock.
Ideally, children produce the highest levels of melatonin by going to bed early and falling into a deep sleep. Unfortunately, children with ADHD are restless and often get little to no sleep, which interferes with the body’s production of melatonin. These sleep disturbances ultimately lower a child’s melatonin levels.
Approximately 6% of children without ADHD suffer from sleep problems. Compare this to the sleep statistics surrounding kids with ADHD:
- It is estimated that three out of four children who have ADHD have some sort of sleep disturbance.
- Studies have shown that roughly one third of children undergoing treatment for ADHD have trouble sleeping.
- 54% to 64% of children with ADHD who are treated with methylphenidate experience insomnia symptoms due to the side effects of this medication.
Sleep Hygiene Tips for Children With ADHD
While melatonin may aid in helping sleep patterns in children with ADHD, parents can help their ADHD child by teaching them the importance and value of sleep. You can encourage healthy sleep hygiene behavior by:
- Implementing relaxing routines. Relaxing routines may help your child unwind more easily. Pick a calming activity to do before bed, like gentle stretching, soaking in a warm bath or listening to some calm music.
- Adhering to a sleep schedule. Send your child to bed at same time each night, regardless of how energetic they feel.
- Removing electronics from the bedroom. Limit screen time in the evening hours, and sleep in a cool, dark space. Consider using a humidifier or fan to generate a bit of white noise, which will drown out sounds that can wake them in the night.
Although it does not treat overall ADHD symptoms, melatonin can be of great help in reestablishing the balance in your child’s sleep cycle, which in turn may lead to improvement in their ADHD symptoms, as the consequences of insomnia will be erased.