7.15.2006

Melatonin and Sleep Deprivation

After seeing the sleep-deprivation hell my friend TP is going through because of her son Thomas's not sleeping through the night or more than five hours per night, I forwarded the following post from my local Autism Biomed yahoo group to her. I also got the author's permission to post it here.

I cannot believe that a scientist and researcher of TP's caliber had never even heard of melatonin, and that her son's pediatrician had never mentioned either it or a sleep study. Frequent travelers take melatonin to avoid jet lag, for the love of Peet.

I am hoping that CW's post below will inspire at least one family affected by sleep deprivation to research additional options.

A very kind neurologist who has autism in his family suggested melatonin to
me but I was afraid to do it. When my son had a Stafnord sleep study
confirming that he woke up 20 times PER HOUR (vs. 1 time per 2 hours which
is normal) I asked the sleep doctors to look it up. They went on medline or
something and found out that melatonin may be produced less by autistic
children and agreed I should try it--or at least didn't disagree. Therefore,
I finally started using it (I had been reluctant even though we were going
nuts with our son sleeping 5 hours per night for over a year (some days 2
hour naps--while I was driving so that I couldn't sleep with him!) Anyhow,
that saved our life probably literally given ...
I was taking him miles to therapy each day, and my husband was commuting
from [the coast to the East Bay]! I then had the energy to put him on GFCF which
also showed immediate gains, and Brainchild as well. Until he was sleeping,
all we were doing ws coping. Talk about "shift parenting" my husband and I
were co-zombies and barely saw each other either. How people with more than
one child survive one who doesn't sleep and jumps on high objects (he did
not stop this until GFCF) I don't know. More than once I just simply conked
out from pure exhuastion. Here was this darling baby who was very hyper and
just couldn't sleep. (This started about 18 months and continued til 3-1/2.
Until then, he slept fine. This is why I refused to "ferberize" him or any
of that stuff--I sensed it was physical and the sleep study confirmed it).

One thing people don't realize about sleep deprivation. We've all had sleep
deprivation in college or whatever, followed by a long weekend where you
could catch up on the sleep. So on some level we don't think it's THAT awful
if we've never lived this. Well--when your child doesn't sleep for night
after night, you never get to catch up in that one luxurious sleep in. Ever.

The punchline is that it turns out melatonin is a powerful antioxidant and
is in some of the detox cycles. Therefore if you assume our son needed it
and wasn't making it, why NOT give it to him? Our son had an enormous
turnarond quickly. So all that suffering and being too cautious and too
"good" to give him " a drug" during the 4 months from when the doctor
suggested it til we had the sleep study not only did nothing good for the
universe, and literally risked all 3 of our lives, (not to mention the other
people on the road--it's a miracle we never fell asleep at the wheel) it
delayed progress for our son. As a good friend has told me "Don't let the
perfect be the enemy of the good".

We give him 1 to 3 mg most nights depending on how tired he already is.

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