A report in The Brown University’s Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology Update discussed melatonin’s use for pediatric sleep disorders. Melatonin, is sold over the counter as a dietary supplement since it is synthesized from tryptophan (it occurs naturally in foods such as turkey, seeds and nuts), although it has not been FDA reviewed. Melatonin is a hormone made by a part of the brain called the pineal gland and is secreted at night.
Melatonin is widely used in clinical settings for sleep disorders. Judith Owens, MD director of the Sleep Disorder Clinic in Rhode Island lead a study which showed that melatonin was recommended for children and adolescents in about 15% of the physicians who responded. A few studies show that melatonin may be effective in children and adolescents with circadian rhythm problems, in special needs children with neurodevelopmental delays, visual impairment, and autism. A Dutch researcher, Kristiaan B van der Heijden, MD lead a study which found that melatonin helps sleep by using dim light in elementary school children with chronic insomnia. The earlier the melatonin is administered within dim light, the greater the chance of sleep onset.
Melatonin improves pediatric sleep disorders. Do children have an age print? In some cases they do. Development is actually a mismatch of maturation such that many individuals come out of being age 18 and already have bones that are 50 years old, and pineal glands that have slowed down the production of melatonin. Many of us already come out of growth without full maturation of a young brain, a pineal gland or young bones. Some of us already have old parts that never quite matured.
– Owens JA, Rosen CL,Mindell JA: Medication use in the treatment of pediatric insomnia: results of a survey of community-based pediatricians.. Pediatrics 2003; 1119(5): 628-635.
Van der Heijden KB, Smits MG, van Someren EJW et al. Prediction of melatonin efficacy by pre-treatment dim light onset in children with idiopathic chronic sleep onset insomia. J Sleep Res 2005; 14(2): 187-194.
– Owens JA, Babcock D, Blumer J et al. The use of pharmacotherapy in the treatment of pediatric insomnia in primary care: rational approaches. A consensus meeting summary. J Clin Sleep Med 2005; 1(1):1-11.
Eric R. Braverman, M.D.
Dr. Braverman is a Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Brandeis University and NYU Medical School, did brain research at Harvard Medical School, and trained at an affiliate of Yale Medical School. He is acknowledged worldwide as an expert in brain-based diagnosis and treatment, and he lectures to and trains doctors in anti-aging medicine.