A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Winter, 2018 | Number 1, Volume 32

Prolonged-release melatonin improves sleep in kids with ASD

Prolonged-release melatonin may be helpful in treating the sleep problems of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), a new study indicates. 

Paul Gringras and colleagues in Europe and the U.S. enrolled 125 children in their double-blind study, all between 2 and 17 years of age. Of the children,121 were diagnosed with ASD and 4 with Smith-Magenis syndrome. All had chronic insomnia. 

The children’s parents first received instruction on behavioral interventions to improve their children’s sleep. Children who did not respond to these interventions then received prolonged-release melatonin, in doses beginning at 2 mg per day and increasing to 5 mg if needed, for 13 weeks. 

At the end of the study, the researchers report 68.9% of children taking melatonin were sleeping better, compared to only 39.3% of children taking the placebo. Children taking melatonin slept nearly one hour longer on average than at the beginning of the study, while those on the placebo slept only nine minutes longer. They also fell asleep nearly 40 minutes faster, compared to 12 minutes for the controls. Neither the children’s age nor the presence or absence of comorbid attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) affected the results. 

Adverse effects were mild and included daytime sleepiness and headaches. No participants with epilepsy in the melatonin group had a seizure during the treatment. 

The researchers say that in earlier research using immediate-release melatonin, children fell asleep quickly but woke earlier. This did not occur with the timed-release formula.


“Efficacy and safety of pediatric prolonged-release melatonin for insomnia in children with autism spectrum disorder,” Paul Gringras, Tali Nir, John Breddy, Anat Frydman-Marom, and Robert L. Findling, Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 56, No. 11, November 2017, 948-57. Address: Paul Gringras, Children’s Sleep Medicine, Evelina London Children’s Hospital, Guy’s and St. Thomas’, Westminster Bridge Road, London, UK, [email protected]


 “Prolonged-release melatonin improves sleep in children with ASD,” Nick Zagorski, Psychiatric News, December 14, 2017.