The hormone melatonin is produced in the brain from the amino acid tryptophan and functions to regulate the body’s clock, or circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm influences when your child wakes and falls asleep. The pineal gland responds to darkness by secreting more melatonin and responds to light by decreasing the hormone. Being exposed to insufficient light during the day or too much light at night interferes with the body’s natural melatonin cycles. Melatonin supplements help children with sleep problems associated with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and developmental disorders such as autism, mental retardation and cerebral palsy.
Melatonin and Insomnia
Children may experience insomnia related to ADHD, autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, visual impairment and other central nervous system disorders. Melatonin may reduce the time needed for some children to fall asleep and help them to sleep longer. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that melatonin facilitates sleep for children with ADHD but does not benefit the symptoms associated with ADHD. Melatonin may decrease the number and length of seizures for children with epilepsy when taken at bedtime.