ADHD and Melatonin - How it Helps ADHD Children with Sleeping Problems

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ADHD symptoms can vary wildly from child to child. In fact, the symptoms of one child with ADHD might be completely different than those of another. Because of this, it can be hard to pinpoint and diagnose ADHD but the most common symptoms that are often used in diagnosis is sleep disturbances or odd patterns of sleep.

It’s very easy to recognize this problem, but it can be a bit harder to treat it effectively. One possible treatment for sleep problems in children with ADHD is melatonin. Its full effectiveness may still be somewhat unclear, but prescribing doctors (as well as a few studies) have seen results leading to increased sleep and more predictable sleep patterns. ADHD and melatonin levels seem to have an effect on each other that can be treated with a regimen of melatonin.

What Is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain, from the amino acid tryptophan. It serves many functions including the regulation of sleep. It does this by telling your body that it’s time for bed. It works on a rhythm and the highest levels of it are found at nighttime.

The rhythm that melatonin works on is like your ‘internal clock.’ The tryptophan that melatonin is made from is a hormone that is normally ingested when eating a proper diet, and an overloading of tryptophan (such as with a large turkey meal) can increase the level of melatonin in the body causing tiredness, which is something many people experience at Thanksgiving.

ADHD and Melatonin

There have not been a large number of studies that look at the effectiveness of a melatonin treatment to help increase sleep or regulate sleep patterns in children with ADHD. However, in a four-week study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in 2007 105 patients were tested in a randomized blind study.

It was found that the use of melatonin treatment did have a moderate effect on the amount of sleep, as well as on sleep patterns. Those participants in the study who were taking melatonin saw no adverse effects, but they also weren’t able to detect any positive effect on problem behavior. This suggests that the abnormal sleeping patterns of those children with ADHD are not causing their other ADHD symptoms, but rather the other way around. Still, there is a strong link between ADHD and melatonin.

Dosages & Side Effects

The amount of melatonin needed to see results in a child with ADHD varies with each child and can include many factors, such as weight and the severity of the sleeping problems. Most doctors recommend starting off with a very low dose, sometimes as low as 0.03mg, and increasing until the desired results are seen. This also limits any potential side effects, although melatonin, being naturally found within the body, is one of the safest drugs/supplements you can take and very little in the way of side effects have been seen.


SLTBR: Questions & Answers About Melatonin

Medline Plus: Melatonin

Effect of Melatonin on Sleep, Behavior, and Cognition in ADHD and Chronic Sleep-Onset Insomnia