Friday, April 17, 2009

Melatonin may help autistic children sleep

By United Press International

SACRAMENTO, April 16 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers suggest melatonin may help children with autism or Fragile X syndrome sleep.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, linked melatonin treatment to lengthening mean sleep duration by a mean of 21 minutes, decreasing sleep-onset latency -- the length of time it takes to fall asleep -- by 28 minutes and shortening sleep onset by 42 minutes.

Study senior author Beth Goodlin-Jones of the M.I.N.D Institute at the University of California Davis Health System in Sacramento suggests treatment with over-the-counter melatonin supplements might help alleviate some of the stress that parents of special-needs children experience.

Sleep problems, she says, are reported in up to 89 percent of children with autism and 77 percent of children with Fragile X syndrome -- the most common form of inherited mental impairment ranging from learning problems to mental retardation.

"Sleep onset problems at the beginning of the night are very troublesome for children and their families," Goodlin-Jones says in a statement. "Sometimes children may take one to two hours to fall asleep and often they disrupt the household during this time."

The study included information from 12 children who met diagnostic criteria for autism or Fragile X syndrome or both between the ages of 2- 15. Sleep quality and quantity were measured both objectively and subjectively. Participants were given two weeks' supply of either melatonin or a placebo.


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