NATURAL BODY HORMONE
Our body naturally produces the hormone, melatonin, in the pineal gland located in the brain base. It regulates the circadian rhythm – our body’s biological clock that controls daily wakefulness and sleep cycle. Secretion increases with darkness to calm and induce sleepiness. Production dwindles as daylight emerges and cortisol, the waking hormone, takes over.
Children generally have higher levels of melatonin than adult at night times. However, levels dwindle as we age. Thus, we see older adults needing less and less number of hours of sleep as they age.
SLEEP DISORDERS and ADHD
Sleep disorders are common in children with ADHD. Initially, it was thought to be the side effects of ADHD medication. Studies later conclude that 30-40 percent of children with ADHD have sleep disorders regardless of whether they are taking medication or not.
It is suggested that children with ADHD has an abnormal metabolism in which their bodies do not produce enough melatonin at night. Chronic stress can also affect production and secretion of the hormone.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Melatonin calms and induces sleepiness, helping to fall asleep faster, increasing the length of time staying asleep and increasing daytime alertness.
My 10-year-old daughter seems to be tired all the time. She is always falling asleep in short car rides (5-10 minutes). She can sleep for over 10 hours if she is given the time and allow to do so. I suspected that she must be not sleeping well. She always wakes up still tired even after 10-12 hours of sleep.
One night I decided to let her try melatonin. She fell asleep a lot quicker than usual, without the usual tossing and turning and wanting to play more. We tried this for about a week. Some days, she can actually wake up on her own in the morning, which is unusual. Besides, she is able to verbalize that with the supplement she can “organize” her thoughts better during the day. My reaction was “Wow”, that was quite some interpretation and observation.
My daughter used to move around a lot in the bed when she sleeps. But recently she told me that she notices that she is “staying in the same spot” when she sleeps now.
Because there is no established guideline or recommendation, it is generally prudent to start low and slow. For young children, start with a dose as low as 0.3 mg/day or less, and increase slowly until you see some positive results.
In adults, 3 mg is usually considered a safe place to start. Although research shows that a dose of up to 10mg is safe, it is best to proceed with the same caution.
Take the supplement 30-60 minutes before going to bed. I usually have my daughter takes hers while she is brushing her teeth before bed. I give her 1.5mg (one half of a 3-mg pill) at night several times a week, not every night.
Other side effects that have been reported are vivid dreams and nightmares. If your child experiences any of these consider decreasing the dose or discontinuing the use.
Some people may also experience stomach cramps, headaches, irritability, and dizziness.
POTENTIAL DRUG INTERACTION
If you are taking any of the following medications, please consult your physician and/or pharmacist before you start taking melatonin.
• Blood pressure
• Beta blocker