It’s hard to sleep when your skin is itchy and uncomfortable, and that’s why a new study is suggesting over-the-counter melatonin may be helpful for children with eczema.
Researchers say eczema affects as many as 30 per cent of children and it’s often keeping them awake at night. Switching to organic cotton PJs, underwear and sheets can help, but there’s a good chance it’s not enough to keep a child with eczema sleeping comfortably through the night.
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain and it helps to control a person’s sleep and wake cycles. In most cases, melatonin levels rise in the evening, remain high for most of the night — letting you get some sleep — and then taper off early in the morning.
A previous study discovered that people with eczema who had trouble sleeping had low levels of nocturnal melatonin, so the new study explored if over-the-counter melatonin could help.
Children from 22 months to 18 years old were treated with either an inactive placebo or a 3-milligram dose of melatonin, every night at bedtime, for four weeks. Here’s what happened:
- The kids who took melatonin actually saw slight improvements in their eczema (possibly from the anti-inflammatory effect of the melatonin) AND they fell asleep an average of 21 minutes faster than the placebo kiddos.
- The kids taking melatonin got an extra 10 minutes’ sleep each night, on average
- The kids taking a placebo actually lost an average of 20 minutes of sleep a night
No side effects were reported, and the cost of over-the-counter melatonin is less than nine cents per pill.
So should kids with eczema be taking melatonin?
Talk to your doctor first, of course, and remember that the first priority should always be treating the eczema itself. But it’s looking like this could help a lot of kids get some much-needed shut-eye.