Melatonin may help children with concussion to sleep better

Children are always running around and making a mess. Sadly, this sometimes results in injuries, such as concussions. Scientists found that a lot of children suffer from poor sleep and fatigue after sustaining concussion, but how can we help them? A new study from the University of Queensland found that melatonin could help children sleep better.

Children who suffered a concussion often struggle to have a good sleep. Image credit: Alessandro Zangrilli via Wikimedia

Concussion is a traumatic brain injury. It is very easy to injure yourself in this way. A simple slip and fall can result in a concussion, as well as bumping your head on a branch or getting punched in the face. In fact, there were cases when children got concussed just by getting hit in the head with a basketball. In many cases concussion heals very quickly, but a lot of children (and adults for that matter) suffer from consequences that may last years after the injury. One of those consequences is sleep disturbance, which often causes fatigue.

Scientists invited 62 people who suffered concussion in the past to participate in this study. They were administered 3-10mg of melatonin or a dose of placebo over a four-week period. Scientists then employed the latest brain mapping techniques to analyse Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans. This allowed scientists to assess millions of neural connections very quickly and to see how the treatment is working. Researchers found that melatonin compensated for normal brain functions related to sleep and allowed children to rest more comfortably. This is very important, because numerous studies have shown that sleep is crucial for quick and full recovery after injuries.

Children need to sleep 8-9 hours per night. And it is important that their sleep is high quality, because it is absolutely key for learning, memory and healing. Concussion oftentimes results in disturbed sleep and melatonin could be helpful. Melatonin is a hormone, which regulates the sleep–wake cycle. People take melatonin supplements when they are suffering from sleep issues. However, scientists note that melatonin is not the ultimate answer to problems that concussed children are facing.

Dr Kartik Iyer, one of the authors of the study, said: “A surprising aspect of the study was that not all children made a full recovery from concussion just by taking melatonin. Even though increases in brain functions and grey matter corresponded with decreases in sleep disturbance and fatigue, the supplement didn’t resolve other common concussion symptoms such as memory problems, anxiety and depression.”

Concussion is a very serious injury. Many people make full recovery, but some effects of it may persist for years. Better sleep could aid recovery, but, sadly, melatonin is not going to help everyone.


Source: University of Queensland

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