Darkness triggers the pineal gland of the brain to release melatonin. This is a hormone which regulates the circadian rhythm of the body. The circadian rhythm serves as an internal clock which has an influence on the sleep and wake cycle. Some people make use of synthetic melatonin for the treatment of sleep problems related to developmental disorders like mental retardation, autism and cerebral palsy. Scientific research confirms that kids suffering from autism will have problems with the production or release of melatonin. It is best to talk with the pediatrician regarding the side effects of melatonin if you think of giving melatonin to the child.
Risk for Seizures
According to the report of MayoClinic.com, the results about the use of melatonin and the increase in risk for seizures are contradictory. Studies show that the risk is increased while the incidence of seizure activity among children is reduced. Based on the report of the University of Maryland Medical Center, melatonin doses between 1mg to 5mg can result to seizures in children less than 15 years of age. Melatonin must be given only when there is supervision of the doctor.
Discomfort in the Stomach
As a side effect of melatonin, the child could experience mild symptoms of gastrointestinal problem. These symptoms are vomiting, nausea and cramping. Sometimes, language problems can hinder the children with autism to complain from physical discomfort. The child should be closely monitored for verbal cues or body language which indicates physical discomfort.
Usually, children spend more time in REM or rapid eye movement sleep when compared to adults. REM sleep is able to promote dreaming. Research has shown that melatonin can make autistic kids fall asleep without delay and remain sleeping for a prolonged period of time. A sleep pattern that is enhanced and constant provides the autistic kid with a lot of opportunities to acquire REM sleep as well as dream all through the night. If the child has distressing dreams or nightmares, you should speak with your doctor about making adjustments on the amount of melatonin the child gets.
Implications for Parents
Numerous parents utilize alternative medical treatments like melatonin in treating the symptoms of autism found in their kids. Melatonin can be useful to the autistic child by reducing the time required for falling asleep and then increase the time spent for sleeping. The child can have the maximum benefit from melatonin if parents work with her physician in monitoring for possible side effects and also in establishing the therapeutic and safe dosage for the child.