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Does Melatonin Help ADHD?

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Using Melatonin for ADHD may help increase concentration and regulate important sleep cycles.

Melatonin may help induce sleep in children and adults with ADHD.

ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a behavioral disorder in children and adults. Any child who is afflicted with this disorder may be hyperactive, inattentive, and have sleeping problems.

A study examined extensive data on the safety and efficacy of melatonin for treating sleeplessness in children with ADHD; and the researchers found it useful and safe in inducing sleep in the young insomniacs.

So, does Melatonin treat ADHD? Yes, it does. Read on to find out more about the ADHD and Melatonin connection. 

What is Melatonin?

The pineal gland, the organ responsible for producing melatonin in the body, is located at the center of the brain but outside the blood-brain barrier. This means that it produces its effects outside of the central nervous system.

Melatonin acts mostly on specific receptors but also serves as an antioxidant. It is a derivative of the amino acid, tryptophan from which it is synthesized according to a four-step process.

Melatonin can be found in plants and animals. Examples of plants containing melatonin are St John’s wort, Feverfew, banana, cherries and grapes. Other dietary sources of melatonin include rice, cereals, olive oil and wine.

In plants, melatonin fulfills 3 purposes: it serves as an antioxidant; it regulates the response of plants to light; and it contributes to the hardiness of plants allowing them to thrive in harsh environments.

However, melatonin from dietary sources does not increase the plasma concentration of the neurohormone in humans. To increase melatonin levels in the body, it must be taken as a supplement.

Melatonin and the Circadian Cycle

Melatonin is an endocrine hormone which contributes to the sleep-wake or circadian cycle. It is secreted during the dark hours. Its secretion is especially inhibited by the blue light (between the wavelengths 460nm and 480nm) of daytime.

Melatonin is only part of the system regulating the sleep cycle. Contrary to popular belief, the circadian cycle is chiefly controlled by the central nervous system and not by melatonin. Melatonin is only responsible for drowsiness and reducing the body temperature.

Ideally, children produce the highest levels of melatonin regularly. Therefore, they sleep early and deeply. Adults, however, produce less amounts of melatonin and the hormone is released from the pineal gland much later than in children.

Children with ADHD have melatonin profiles much closer to those of adults. Therefore, they are restless even hyperactive during the night and have trouble falling asleep.

ADHD and Melatonin

Melatonin is a natural occurring hormone in the body, and it is secreted by the pineal gland in the brain.

It helps maintain other hormones and regulates the body’s internal clock.

Melatonin is often included in natural ADHD supplements. It has been known to calm the body and induce sleep.

Melatonin also works as a powerful antioxidant. In a study, it was found that melatonin is 60 times more effective than Vitamin E or Vitamin C in protecting DNA from damage.

Children with ADHD are over active and get little or no sleep at all. They jump, fight, and play throughout the day, and often doesn't sleep well.

The sleeplessness in such kids can be corrected with melatonin supplements. Recent research has proved that children with ADHD do not have adequate melatonin production and this keeps them hyperactive even at night.

Melatonin is recognized for its role in sleep regulation. The supplement helps stimulate sleep in children with disrupted circadian rhythms.

Melatonin is notably more effective in reducing the time required to fall asleep, thus increasing the number of sleeping hours, and improving daytime attentiveness.

Other Benefits of Melatonin

Melatonin might provide a secondary benefit for people diagnosed with ADHD through its antioxidant property. It is a very powerful antioxidant which can easily cross the blood-brain barrier and cellular membranes.

Melatonin is superior to Vitamin C as an antioxidant. Unlike the vitamin, it is a terminal antioxidant. While there is a possibility of releasing the free radicals that Vitamin C removes from the body, melatonin irreversibly removes the harmful free radicals from the body.

While melatonin is used to treat one symptom of ADHD (hyperactivity at night or sleep difficulties), it is sometimes combined with other ADHD medications to provide better results.

Stimulants used in ADHD treatment such as Adderall and Ritalin sometimes cause hyperactivity which can make it difficult for suffers to sleep at night. In such cases, melatonin is prescribed alongside to help induce sleep.

Melatonin Dosage for ADHD Children

The standard melatonin dosage suggested by medical experts for children with ADHD is 0.5 mg per night, administered one hour before sleep.

In some cases parents have administered dosage as high as 3-5 mg without any side effects. However, it is recommended that you consult your doctor before deciding the dosage for your child.

Are There Any Side Effects?

Melatonin is safe for most adults when taken by mouth for short-term.  In one extensive clinical research study, a high dose of 75mg/ day was given to 1400 women for a 4-year period and no serious side effects found.

However, in some cases, it might cause some side effects including headache, short-term feelings of depression, dizziness, stomach cramps, daytime drowsiness, and irritability.

Melatonin is known to cause vivid dreams and even nightmares especially in high doses. This is because the medication increases the duration and depth of REM part of the sleep cycle and also increases dream activity.

Furthermore, high doses of melatonin can disrupt the circadian cycle producing effects resembling jetlag by inducing sleep during the day and wakefulness at night.

If any of the above symptoms persist, consult your health care practitioner immediately. You must talk to your physician before giving Melatonin supplements to your child.

Are There Any Drug Interactions?

Melatonin might interact or interfere with other drugs. You must avoid using Melatonin supplements if you are already taking the following medications:

Antidepressants; blood pressure medications; anticoagulants; blood-thinning medications; benzodiazepines; tamoxifen; non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; steroids and immunosuppressant medications.

Where to Get Melatonin

Melatonin is cheap and easy to get. You can find Melatonin supplements in most health food stores in the US.

For more information about ADHD treatments, read our articles on DMAE, GABA and Phosphatidylserine for ADHD.

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