Oral melatonin for non-respiratory sleep disturbance in children with neurodisabilities: systematic review and meta-analyses

Oral melatonin for non-respiratory sleep disturbance in children with neurodisabilities: systematic review and meta-analyses

Parker, A. Beresford, B. Dawson, V. Elphick, H. Fairhurst, C. Hewitt, C. Scantlebury, A. Spiers, G. Thomas, M. Wright, K. McDaid, C.
Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology
Aim To evaluate the effectiveness of pharmacological interventions for managing non-respiratory sleep disturbances in children with neurodisabilities. Method We performed a systematic review and meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials (RCTs). We searched 16 databases, grey literature, and reference lists of included papers up to February 2017. Data were extracted and assessed for quality by two researchers (B.B., C.M., G.S., A.S., A.P.). Results Thirteen trials were included, all evaluating oral melatonin. All except one were at high or unclear risk of bias. There was a statistically significant increase in diary-reported total sleep time for melatonin compared with placebo (pooled mean difference 29.6min, 95% confidence interval [CI] 6.9-52.4, p=0.01). Statistical heterogeneity was high (97%). For the single RCT with low risk of bias, the unadjusted mean difference in total sleep time was 13.2 minutes (95% CI -13.3 to 39.7) favouring melatonin, while the mean difference adjusted for baseline total sleep time was statistically significant (22.4min, 95% CI 0.5-44.3, p=0.04). Adverse event profile suggested that melatonin was well-tolerated. Interpretation There is a paucity of evidence on managing sleep disturbances in children with neurodisabilities, and it is mostly of limited scope and poor quality. There is evidence of the benefit and safety of melatonin compared with placebo, although the extent of this benefit is unclear. What this paper adds Melatonin for the management of non-respiratory sleep disturbances in children with neurodisabilities was well tolerated with minimal adverse effects. The extent of benefit and which children might benefit most from melatonin use is uncertain. Benefit may be greatest in those with autism spectrum disorder; however, this finding should be interpreted with caution.

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Type of intervention

Treatment and Child Welfare Interventions


Mental Health Problems and Disorders

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Other Problems

Sleep Disorders


Alternative Treatment

Nutritional Supplements and Nutrition

Age group

Infants and Toddlers (0-2 years)

Preschool Aged Children (3-5 years)

School Aged Children (6-12 years)

Adolescents (13-18 years)

More information
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