Melatonin May Reduce Risk of Self-Harm Among Children - medtigo



Melatonin May Reduce Risk of Self-Harm Among Children

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Swedish researchers discovered that treating sleep problems with melatonin reduced the risk of self-injurious behavior, particularly among anxious or depressed adolescent girls.  

Insomnia, or lack of quality sleep, is frequently associated with a variety of mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety. Sleep deprivation is also associated with developmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  

In addition, research suggests that insufficient sleep is associated with an increased risk of self-harm and suicidal behavior, which could be mitigated by improving sleep quality.  

Due to the correlation between mental health conditions, poor sleep, and self-injury, Swedish researchers from the Karolinska Institutet pondered whether the popular sleep aid melatonin could reduce the risk of self-injury among adolescents.  

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that regulates the circadian rhythm and promotes sleep. Also available as a nutritional supplement. Melatonin is frequently used to treat sleep disorders in children and adolescents in Sweden.  

For the population-based cohort study, which was published in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, researchers identified 25,575 adolescents who began melatonin treatment between the ages of six and eighteen. Over 87% had at least one mental health condition, predominantly anxiety, depression, autism spectrum disorder, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  

Girls were five times more likely than boys to self-harm among the participants. The researchers compared the participant’s risk of self-harm one month prior to treatment with melatonin and one year after treatment began. In addition, they considered additional factors that may play a role in self-injurious behavior.  

The team discovered an increased risk of self-harm in the month preceding melatonin treatment after analyzing the data. However, in the months following the initiation of treatment, this risk decreased by approximately 50 percent, especially among adolescent girls with anxiety or depression.  

In addition, these results remained unchanged after scientists excluded antidepressant-using participants. First author Marica Leone, Ph.D., states in a news release, “This suggests that melatonin may be responsible for the reduced rates of self-harm, but we cannot rule out the possibility that other psychiatric medications or psychotherapy influenced the findings.”  

Despite the need for additional research, the authors of the study suggest that treating sleep disturbances may be an important intervention for reducing the risk of self-harm in young females with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. 



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