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The Basics Of Melatonin Autism Therapy

Mar 7, 2008
Recent research - such as that performed by Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D. Bowling Green State University Bowling Green, OH - demonstrates that the melatonin autism sufferers produce in their bodies has an impact on the degree and the appearance of their symptoms as well as their ability to achieve a quality sleep.

The body's natural clock is based upon a twenty-five hour cycle which, clearly, does not line up with the twenty-four hour solar clock on which the world functions. In order to make up for this lack of alignment, the human brain releases a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin is secreted by the pineal gland, located at the very base of the brain. This is the gland most commonly linked to the various nerve and neural pathways between the visual center in the brain and the eyes which take in the images.

The pineal gland begins releasing melatonin when there is a lack of signals from the eyes to the visual center of the brain; that is, when it becomes dark. The greater the levels of melatonin in the blood, the less capable the brain stem (which is responsible for keeping us awake) is to keep us awake, and sleep results.

The way in which melatonin actually functions remains a mystery, as only rough details of the process are understood. What is known is that the body depends on melatonin in order to become synchronized with the solar day, and to regulate the times in which we work well, eat, and sleep, as well as when the majority of the body's other hormones should or should not be present.

Melatonin is considered to be a safe enough substance that it is readily available without a prescription, over-the-counter at local pharmacies. It is commonly used to treat sleep disturbances and is usually most effective when taken a half hour before bedtime and when complimented by a "bedtime routine" such as dimming the lights and keeping calm.

When it comes to melatonin autism therapies, the aforementioned Dr. Jaak Panksepp described in an article that autistic children frequently suffer from sleep disorders, suggesting a melatonin-system related issue. As melatonin is the body's natural sleep regulator, Panksepp finds that autistic children are better capable of achieving the quality sleep they need, and for adequate periods of time when melatonin is supplemented.

Further to this finding, improved biological rhythms are also achieved through melatonin application and a high anti-oxidant effect is witnessed. This anti-oxidant effect is explained through the body's natural sleep functions within which certain chemical reactions occur to counteract the day's collection of harmful free radicals. Anti-oxidants slow down the degeneration of tissue, hypertension, cataract, atherosclerosis, macular degeneration in the eyes, and other results of high free radical levels in the body. Those free radicals are neutralized by anti-oxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, and body-generated chemicals such as melatonin.

With melatonin supplementation, autism sufferers can gain not only improved sleep but also powerful antioxidant performance, leading researchers to believe that this safe and useable hormone can greatly assist in the reduction of autism symptoms that may have been aggravated as a result of lack of sleep and from free radical damage. With melatonin treatments - under the proper supervision and recommendation of the child's physician - many autistic children (and their parents for that matter) can sleep better and minimize the impact of their condition.

Admittedly, further data is required before a final statement can be made about the success - or lack thereof - of melatonin autism therapy. However, it has produced high hopes in many parents who are eager to be able to reap these very appealing and easy-to-achieve rewards. Speak to your child's physician if you feel your child would benefit from melatonin supplementation.
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