Melatonin and the Autistic Child: What Is Safe?
If you have a child with autism and he or she can’t simply settle down and go to bed at night, you might be wondering what you can give your child to make him or her more calm and eventually go to sleep. First things first—consult with your pediatrician, especially if your child is already on some form of medication for hyperactivity, seizures or attention deficit disorder. Giving your child an OTC without consulting with your pediatrician first could seriously backfire.
Secondly, if your pediatrician cannot tweak the meds your child is on, then he or she would give you permission for the dosage of melatonin you can use. With neuro-typical children, a single dose of gummy melatonin chews consists of a single piece. For adults and children on the spectrum, it is two pieces, or 5mg. Any more than that and you could damage the body’s own hormonal regulation system, which produces its own natural melatonin. In rare cases where a child with autism cannot settle down or has trouble falling asleep because he or she is on a twelve-hour dose of Ritalin or some other stimulant, then a pediatrician might grant you permission to give your child a dose and a half of the adult dose, or 7.5mg. However, DO NOT give your child this much without first consulting your pediatrician.
Thirdly, and finally, do not expect melatonin to be the cure. Just as kids on the spectrum are all different, they will all react to melatonin differently. Simply put, some kids on melatonin get hyped up by it rather than calmed down. If, after three nights of dosing your child he or she is more hyper than before or has an even more difficult time falling asleep or staying asleep, discontinue its use. It is safe to discontinue melatonin on your own because it is an OTC and not a prescribed medication.