Sleep is a luxury for me, Archie has always had issues sleeping which got worse as he got older rather than the other way around. In fact I’ve written about his sleep problems a couple of time before, I even attended an Autism Sleep Clinic due to the fact he wakes around 10-15 times a night. It’s not good for us but it’s worse for him as it really affects his Autistic Traits. On the days when he’s had a worse nights sleep his Autism is a lot more obvious. Like any child, he copes much better with sleep.
We’ve tried so many things to hep his sleep pattern, we have the strictest bedtime routine which has been refined since the Autism Sleep Clinic I attended. One thing I learnt there is that sleep problems are a common factor in children with Autism. Our body has its own internal clock that controls your natural cycle of sleeping and waking hours. In part, your body clock controls how much melatonin your body makes. Normally, melatonin levels begin to rise in the mid- to late evening, remain high for most of the night, and then drop in the early morning hours. For a lot of children with Autism this is not the case, they don’t produce enough, or produce melatonin as various times during the day hence why they may be wide awake at night but like to sleep for short bursts during the day.
When our Pediatrician first suggested we gave Archie melatonin I was dead set against it, I didn’t want to medicate my child to make him sleep, but the more she explained the more we realised that for Archie’s sake we had to try.
Melatonin is a natural hormone, it’s not a sedative. It won’t make your child sleep, it won’t even make them sleep longer but what it could do is help relax them at bedtime soothing them into their own natural sleep. Over time this should then help them into forming their own longer term sleep pattern, although you still have to maintain the rigid bedtime routine. Melatonin won’t override an erratic bedtime, it only works as part of an overall strategy.
It doesn’t work for all children & have heard stories of it making the child violent, it having no effect etc but our paediatrician felt we really needed to try it for Archie for all of us. There’s only so long you can go without sleep before falling apart.
For the first two months on 2mg per night it did seem to help. At first he was only waking around three times a night but this gradually got worse until even with the medication he was back to waking around ten times a night again, couple this with waking at around 5am then we were back struggling on no sleep again. fter speaking again with the paediatrician she decided we needed to try an increase dosage. Again I was unsure about the effect this could have but she reassured me that it’s a natural medication and that depending on the amount of melatonin the child naturally produces then they may need more to regulate this.
Archie’s now been on the higher dosage for a week and has even slept through the night a few times!! We’re still a little aprehensive as last time it worked great to begin with before Archie’s body became more tolerant but the change in him already is drastic. He’s a much happier little boy, even nursery have noticed a huge change in him. He’s so much more responsive at nursery, they can actually hold his attention for more than a few seconds so we’re hoping this will have a positive impact on his various therapies too.
So for us it seems that medication was the right choice. It may not be right for everyone but as long as it’s helping my little man get a better quality of life then we’ll continue to give it to him.
Would you do the same in our position? Have you had any experience with melatonin?