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J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. 2003 Spring;13(1):83-95.

Effectiveness of melatonin in the treatment of sleep disturbances in children with Asperger disorder.

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Department of Child Psychiatry, University of Helsinki, Lastenlinnantie 11 C 29, PO Box 280, 00029 HUS, Helsinki, Finland.


Sleep disturbances are common in patients with Asperger disorder. Although these sleep problems are often persistent and may significantly impair the child's daytime well-being, no treatment studies have been reported. In this open clinical trial, the effectiveness of melatonin was studied in a sample of 15 children with Asperger disorder (13 boys, 2 girls) aged 6-17 years using several questionnaires and actigraph measurements. They included assessments of sleep quality, tiredness, and behavior. Melatonin (3 mg/day) was used for 14 days. All the measurements were made three times: before the treatment period, during the treatment (days 12-14), and 3 weeks after the discontinuation of the treatment. The sleep patterns of all the children improved, and half of them displayed excellent responses to melatonin. In particular, actigraphically measured sleep latency decreased from 40.02 +/- 24.09 minutes to 21.82 +/- 9.64 minutes (p = 0.002), whereas sleep duration remained steady at 477.40 +/- 55.56 minutes and 480.48 +/- 50.71 minutes. Despite the short duration of the treatment, behavioral measures also displayed a significant improvement, and most of the effect disappeared after the discontinuation of the melatonin (p = 0.001). In conclusion, melatonin may provide an interesting new and well-tolerated treatment option for children with Asperger disorder suffering from chronic insomnia. However, these results must be confirmed in a controlled study.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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