Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland. It is chronobiotic and crucial in the regulation of the circadian clock. As an antioxidant and free radical scavenger, it has many important functions such as anti-inflammation (Bruni et al., 2014).
Melatonin has been found effective for sleep disorders such as sleep-onset insomnia as well as delayed sleep phase syndrome. It may improve the performance of sleep EEGs (Bruni et al., 2014). The timing of administration of melatonin is important, as it has been found most helpful when given 3-5 hours ahead of the dim-light melatonin onset (DLMO).
The use of melatonin for sleep disorders may also benefit those children with developmental disorders and poor sleep quality at the same time (Bruni et al., 2014). These disorders include autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as well as intellectual disability. Melatonin has been found to reduce sleep onset latency and promote sleep time (Bruni et al., 2014).
In addition, melatonin may also be helpful for other problems such as headaches. Studies on animal models haven found that it may have a neuroprotective function (Bruni et al., 2014). For example, it may protect neuronal impairments caused by birth asphyxia. However, such effects still need to be confirmed with human studies and clinical trials among different groups if populations.
Although there are different types of melatonin products available, no significant difference has been observed between the effects of the extended-release type versus the immediate release type (Bruni et al., 2014). More analyses are necessary to elucidate the systematic functions of melatonin.
Bruni O, Alonso-Alconada D, Besag F, Biran V, Braam W, Cortese S, Moavero R, Parisi P, Smits M, Van der Heijden K, Curatolo P. Current role of melatonin in pediatric neurology: Clinical recommendations. Eur J Paediatr Neurol. 2014 Dec 17. pii: S1090-3798(14)00208-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpn.2014.12.007.