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HEALTH CONCERN? BioHealth Health Concerns

Melatonin Sleep Support

Contributing Author: Woeller, Kurt D.O.

Kurt WoellerKurt N. Woeller, D.O. is an osteopathic physician who specializes in traditional osteopathic medicine, cranial osteopathy and integrative medicine. His primary focus is treating children with autism-spectrum disorders. He graduated in 1995 from the University of New England, College of Osteopathic Medicine. He currently lives and practices in Temecula, California. Dr. Woeller serves as a clinical consultant for Great Plains Laboratory teaching doctors the latest in biomedical diagnostic testing and treatment protocols for children with autism-spectrum disorders. He lectures nationwide for Great Plains Laboratory, as well independently regarding the benefits of biomedicine for children with autism.

» Website: SUNRISE MEDICAL

 

Two Effective Melatonin Remedies

Sleep issues are a big problem for many people. For children on the autistic spectrum, sleep imbalances are very common. If you have never tried melatonin to help your child get a better night’s sleep, I have used two different types of melatonin supplements for years with great success with both adult and child patients. Also, if you have used melatonin in the past for yourself and/or your child and it did not work, you may have been using an ineffective or poorly absorbed form.

The dosage, timing of administration, and absorption of melatonin is critical to enhancing proper sleep patterns. I have found melatonin to be very safe and nontoxic. Studies have shown high dosages to be very safe (25 mg or greater). However, I have never seen anyone need this much melatonin. Most adults need no more than 8 to 12 mg (most do well with between 3 to 6 mg) and children between 2 to 3 mg. Occasionally, a child may need a little more to fall asleep, but I have never seen a child need more than 6 to 8 mg. I always advocate the lowest effective dose needed to do the job. With melatonin, it is best to start with a low dose and slowly increase the dosage as needed every few days. Start children with one-half to one tablet.

Determining Sleep Patterns

To determine the type of melatonin that your child needs, evaluate his or her sleep cycle. Does your child have a hard time going to sleep? How long does it take for your child to fall asleep? How long does he or she sleep before waking up? What time does he or she wake up? What time does he or she usually get up in the morning? Does your child’s sleep cycle change with the seasons, in other words, is it longer in winter and/or shorter in summer, or vice versa?

As children age, their sleep cycles change and they may require less sleep overall. I have seen this with my four-year-old daughter. Six months ago, she would go to sleep at 8 pm and wake up between 8:30 am and 9:00 am. She now goes to sleep between 8:30 pm and 9:00 pm and wakes up around 7:00 am. Moreover, summertime with its longer days will shift sleep cycles as more daylight suppresses melatonin release from the brain. Melatonin is considered the molecular equivalent to darkness, and it begins to peak approximately three to four hours after sunset. During the peak of summer when sunset is not until after 8:30 pm and melatonin release is delayed, your child may not go to sleep at the same time as he or she does in the winter and spring.

Melatonin: Short-Acting and Time-Release

Listed below are two different types of melatonin supplements to assist with sleeping issues.

  • Melatonin 3 mg Sublingual This is a short-acting (quick-acting) form of melatonin. It is a sublingual tablet given approximately 30 minutes before bedtime. This form of melatonin helps induce sleep. If no change is seen after two days, increase the dose by one-half to one tablet. Keep increasing the dose every two days as needed to help your child fall asleep. If you child needs more than 10 mg of sublingual melatonin, he or she requires further evaluation. Do not exceed 10 mg.
  • Melatonin 3 mg PR  This is time-release melatonin that helps keep your child asleep. It has a delayed activity onset of four to five hours. Use this melatonin if your child wakes up consistently during the night. I recommend taking this right before bed. If there is no change after two days, increase the dose by one-half to one tablet. Do not exceed more than 10 mg per dose.

Here are few helpful hints to keep in mind while trying these different forms of melatonin:

  • If your child wakes up during the night, use the sublingual tablet to help him or her get back to sleep.
  • If using the melatonin PR (time-release) and your child is now sleeping through the night, but he or she wakes up groggy, push the evening dose back by a half hour to one hour. You will have to play around a little with dosing times to determine what works best.
  • Some people find that taking the sublingual (quick-acting) and PR (time-release) at the same time 30 minutes before going to bed helps consistently with getting to sleep and staying asleep.
  • Remember that these are 3 mg tablets of melatonin, not 1 mg, which is the most commonly found melatonin in health food stores or from supplement companies providing supplements for autistic children. In most cases, one-half to one tablet is all that is necessary for most children.
  • If your child falls asleep easily, but wakes up during the night, there is no need to use the quick-acting sublingual form of melatonin. All you need is the PR (time-release) form.