Sunday, October 9, 2011

using melatonin on a sleep-deprived 6-yr old

Since the school year started, Big M has been exhausted everyday. He can never seem to catch up on sleep, even though we've had a consistent bedtime for him. He goes down between 8 and 8:30 and wakes up at 6:45 on school days, 7 on weekdays. It seems plenty enough time for sleep, but the problem is he doesn't fall asleep right away. Sometimes it takes him more than 1 hour to fall asleep. Even with soccer and other activities that would normally knock him out for a good sleep, he couldn't. He has been challenging in his behavior because he doesn't listen. Actually, it's not that he doesn't listen as much as he can't focus. We tell him something and in 2 minutes, he has forgotten it already. And about 3 weeks ago, he started talking about "dying himself" out of shear frustration.

I searched online about sleep deprivation and found numerous articles listing the symptoms of sleep deprivation and Big M has shown all of it. The articles show that a sleep study may be in order. It just so happen that Big M is a little under the weather and with strep-throat going around at school, I took him to see the pediatrician. I discussed his sleep issues and he suggested trying Benadryl just so he could get some sleep. Unfortunately, Benadryl makes the kid hyper so the doctor suggested Melatonin instead. He said to try 1mg about 1 hour before bedtime.  The doctor suggested to keep an eye on the behavioral issues to see if they go away. If not, we will discuss other course of action.

That afternoon, I bought the lowest dose Melatonin I could find. Unfortunately I couldn't find a 1 mg, so I bought a 3 mg bottle. Before administering, Daddy did his own web research and found some articles to beware not to exceed 3mg of Melatonin for a child. He found another article that suggested an even lower dose. So we decided to break 1 pill in 6, and instead gave Big M an equivalent of .5 mg of Melatonin. On the first night, at exactly 1/2 hour, he started nodding off sitting up. And off he went to sleepy land without any issues. I was at first worried that he may wake up groggy, but he wasn't. He woke up bright and early at 6:30 refreshed. That first morning while getting ready for bed, his behavior was a complete 180. I didn't have to tell him to do something over and over. He was very pleasant. I was excited! Daddy only interacted with Big M for about 10 minutes before he had to leave for work and even he noticed a big change. The positive change continued on until after school. I was beyond happy! I couldn't stop smiling and praising him how excellent he has been behaving that way. 

It's not that he obeyed everything he was told, but he was engaged. If he didn't agree, he talked instead of having a tantrum. We compromised, we had a conversation, we laughed. It was the most wonderful thing. It has been a long time since he had been this way. 

That was on a Thursday, and so we decided to give him the same dose on Friday and Saturday. And again, the change was remarkable. Given enough sleep, he was quite a changed boy. There were times when we could see in his face that he was practicing self-restraint when we had to tell him no a few times. On a Saturday afternoon after playing soccer, he was very tired and a tantrum surfaced. But this tantrum was nowhere near as bad as the exhausted tantrums he had been having. 

We are very excited to have the option of using Melatonin to help him rest. I have used it myself on the rare occasion that I suffer from insomnia so I know how it works. It is not habit forming. Daddy and I have agreed that we are not giving it to him all the time. We will give it to him when he can't seem to catch up on rest, which is usually 2-3 days after he can't get enough sleep. 

I will continue to blog about this as I see changes, as I know that we're not the only family experiencing this. The school counselor mentioned to me that a couple of years ago, a student had the same problem seeming always tired. The parents had a sleep study done and found that their child was not reaching REM sleep. 

I am willing to pursue a sleep study to get to the root of things, but we may not have to go that far.

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