Melatonin in wake-sleep disorders in children, adolescents and young adults with mental retardation with or without epilepsy: a double-blind, cross-over, placebo-controlled trial

Brain Dev. 2004 Sep;26(6):373-6. doi: 10.1016/S0387-7604(03)00197-9.


The aim of the present study was to verify the clinical efficacy of melatonin (MLT) in children, adolescents and young adults with wake-sleep disorder and mental retardation, most of them on chronic anticonvulsant therapy for epileptic seizures, by means of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled cross-over trial. Twenty-five patients (16 males, nine females), aged from 3.6 to 26 years (mean 10.5 years), all affected with mental retardation mostly with epileptic seizures, were randomized to oral synthetic fast-release MLT or placebo. Melatonin was initiated at the daily dose of 3 mg, at nocturnal bedtime. In case of inefficacy, MLT dose could be titrated up to 9 mg the following 2 weeks at increments of 3 mg/week, unless the patient was unable to tolerate it. The analysis of all the sleep logs disclosed a significant treatment effect of melatonin on sleep latency (P = 0.019). Melatonin was well tolerated in all patients and no side effects were reported. In conclusion, our study supports the efficacy of MLT in young patients with mental disabilities and epileptic seizures in improving the wake-sleep disorders such as time to fall asleep. Overall, MLT appeared to influence the seizure frequency poorly, though there may be occasional seizure worsening or improving. Such a dual effect requires further studies in young epileptic patients.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Anticonvulsants / pharmacology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Interactions / physiology
  • Epilepsy / complications*
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability / complications*
  • Intellectual Disability / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Melatonin / administration & dosage*
  • Melatonin / adverse effects
  • Sleep / drug effects
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Sleep Disorders, Circadian Rhythm / drug therapy*
  • Sleep Disorders, Circadian Rhythm / etiology
  • Sleep Disorders, Circadian Rhythm / physiopathology
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Melatonin