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Magnesium (and other aids) for sleep in ASD kids???

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hi again,

I'm desperate, DESPERATE for something, ANYTHING that will help my son get to sleep and sleep well.

He's always been a terrible sleeper and I know now that this is typical of kids on the spectrum. We've barely been coping for the past couple of years with endless bedtime routines, frequent night wakings and a kid that wakes at 4 am every day. But now I'm in my first trimester of a new pregnancy (very sick and extremely tired) and my husband is at a new and demanding job and things are really falling apart around here. We live abroad and just moved to a new city so absolutely no outside or family support. 


I have been spending a lot of time searching for things that may help my son sleep. So far we've tried melatonin (upped the dose, cut the dose, stopped and started again)- I'm not sure it works. We tried this valerian extract from Herbs for Kids, I'm not sure it works either. It's really hard to say because sometimes his sleep is a little better and sometimes it's crap and it doesn't correlate regularly with anything. And I'm honestly too tired to make sense of it.


Recently I've read about giving magnesium, Natural Calm or magnesium citrate in a drink before bed. Has this been successful for anyone? Did you have to use a large dose or did the normal dose for a child/toddler work? Any side effects (loose stools etc.)?


I've also started reading about GABA- this one I'm a little apprehensive about. From what I understand it inhibits neurotransmitters or something- I just feel like it's going into territory I know nothing about. Anyone tried this for sleep? Again, what dosage did you use to see results?


Anything else? ANYTHING? I feel like if we can't fix or even just make this sleep situation slightly better, our family is on the verge of breaking down. gloomy.gif Honestly, if I could drug him with real drugs, I think I would. They should make prescription sedatives for toddlers. They really should. I would be their spokeswoman in the commercials.

post #2 of 10

I was pregnant when my ds' ADHD started showing itself; I slept in his bed when necessary and took naps with him. Didn't always work though.

I'd see if you could do a sleep study; perhaps there is something going on that isn't helped by natural sleep aids headscratch.gif. Though it is common for ASD and ADHD children to have difficulty getting to sleep usually something helps.


If you have just used regular melatonin you could try regular and time release. I give my ds both; one to help him get to sleep and the other to help him stay that way. If my ds can just stay asleep long enough to let it take effect it works well for him. We  use room darkening curtains; there are lamps available that simulate sunrise and sunset--I think I've seen them in 220. It may also help to use a white noise machine.


I haven't heard of magnesium specifically helping sleep but it can help take the edge off hyperactivity; for my ds it stopped him from literally running circles around the room at school all day. I've read that Magnesium Glycinate or Magnesium Taurate is better absorbed than other forms of magnesium and that it should be combined with vitamin B6; the dose is measured by weight and since the pills for MG are huge you would likely need the powder form. Is there a practitioner there that could help you use supplements this way? His doctor may also consider Guacafine; it is a non-stimulant used to treat ADHD and in some people it has a sedative effect when given at night and quiets hyperactivity during the day.


Also, I'd check as to what electronic light he might be exposed to at night (TV, computers, smart phones); apparently the 'blue light' they emit causes the production of dopamine which is a big problem to a person that is deficient in producing melatonin. I think the recommendation is to stay away from those things for 2hrs prior to bed time.

post #3 of 10

Hi. I have been going through the same thing with my 3 year old son. He is our first born and he now has a 6 month old brother, so sleep has been hard to get around our house:( I tried melatonin but he would wake up in the middle of the night very upset. After a lot of conversations with his doctor we decided to try him on Clonidine. We started with .1 mg and increased to .2 mg, and now we are all sleeping!! I give it to him around 7:00 pm and he is asleep by 8:00 and sleeps until at least 7:00 am!!!!!! Nothing else worked for my son but the clonidine is working. It's normally used in adults who have high blood pressure but it's been helping lots of kids on the spectrum with bad sleep patterns. Talk to your doctor and see if this might be something that you could try. Best of luck!!!

post #4 of 10

My oldest is not ASD but has a lot of quirks, sleep has always been very, very difficult for her. We went through all sorts of things, of course the basics. white noise, black out blinds, etc... Melatonin gives her horridly vid nightmares, we tried all sorts of other natural things, magnesium, nothing, went to clondine when she was doing a 6 month period of doing 4 hours a night, didn't work either. Eventually an antidepressant that she was put on for other issues, helped her sleep better. And now she is old enough to take prescription insomnia meds on really bad nights which we do use here and there. 



DS1 is ASD and has to have melatonin to sleep. Thank goodness it works for him, because I don't know if I could handle another sleeper like DD1 that nothing worked well for many years. 

post #5 of 10

Yes, we've used magnesium to improve sleep, both going to sleep and staying asleep.  I used to give it at least an hour before bedtime to give his body some time to begin digesting and assimilating it's effects.  If you prefer to give it in a food form that is yummy and don't mind the sugar content, molasses is VERY high in magnesium.  My son would prefer having a spoon full of molasses after dinner and that also worked nicely because I could brush his teeth right after ;).


To answer your question about gaba, yes, I have used it in our family.  There is some theorizing in the spectrum community that there is a gaba/glutamate receptor imbalance or improper metabolizing of vitamin b thereby having the improper balance of these.   That is why vitamin b 6 and b12  so often work wonders for children with spectrum disorders...and why gluten dairy free diets can often work wonders for behavior (they are high glutamate producing foods and going off them helps the body balance glutamate levels).  I know it sounds like a lot of stuff that is beyond a parent.  I wish I had a degree in biochemistry or biology.  But, there is a lot out there to help explain it.  (2 years ago when I did a lot of digging around for information I found good info by Dr. Amy Yasko who has a website and is a biologist) 


I used Gaba less for sleep and more to help my son fight off the upper resp. infections that he is prone to.  I also used ashwaganda which is an indian herb that promotes relaxation by increasing gaba production as well as helps strengthen the immune system.  Gaia makes it and I've found it at whole foods.

post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the replies. We've decided to cut out the melatonin completely after some really bad nights using it and try other things. I'm glad to hear there has been some success with magnesium. That's our next attempt. Then, if that fails, we'll try GABA.


Clonidine sounds interesting- but where we live, prescription sleep aids, anxiety meds etc. are mostly ILLEGAL. Yep. I'm not sure on the details but I do know that before we moved here I was occasionally on some anxiety meds and I learned that if I brought them into the country they could be seized and I could be charged with possession of illegal drugs.  Anyway, I do prefer to try more natural remedies first anyway. I'll go through them ALL if I have to.


Will look into the different forms of magnesium- I was under the impression that mag citrate was the best form for absorption for sleep purposes, but I'll look into the others mentioned. Also, I have read about ashwaganda, but some info says that it also can cause excitability or nervousness. I've also read a bit about vitamin b-12 for ASD treatment- but everything I read said that if you don't have the injectable form it doesn't do anything. Is that true?


I'm so overwhelmed with all of this. The more I try to find solutions the more I find myself buried under more information that I simply don't have the time and energy or knowledge to properly sift through. I wish there was just one reliable source I could go to in order to find what we need to do for my son. This is a full time job...along with the million other things I do that feel like full time jobs. ACK!


Anyway, thanks so much for all the input so far. 

post #7 of 10

I never used the injected b12 with my child because I couldn't bring myself to do it.  However, if you use the methylated form (jarrow brand sells it) called methyl-cobalmin and NOT cobalmin then it is water soluble and therefore easily absorbed and immediately useful to the body, not as accessable as injected, but,  I would give him VERY high doses to try to remedy that.  I did so for about a year and a half.  It helped him certainly...it cleared his thinking and regulated his behavior.  That in combo with his diet were I think two of the major ways he's been able to improve as much. 


We never had that particular reaction to ashwaganda that you describe.  My husband and I will take it occasionally too when we are sick.  I did notice in my son that he can't take it very long but since it's an herb you're not meant to take it long term, just to help the body re-regulate.  He's more relaxed when he takes it and has deeper sleep but his inhibitions drop and his behavior is less thoughtful. 


I think you're on the right track looking for a good magnesium supplement.  It's probably the easiest way to impact sleep without any worrisome side effects. 

post #8 of 10

DS is not ASD but appears close enough to have been evaluated. We do not currently do magnesium but have done so in the past and it has worked for us. We have used magnesium citrate in a drink (one third the adult dose).

post #9 of 10

This might be too mild to help, but it has big effects on some people.  Have you tried warm milk, with or without anice?  Something happens to the lactose in milk when you heat it that makes us sleepy.  I used to put a star of anice in the bottom of the cup as I warmed the milk in the microwave, he liked the taste and it helps with nightmares and peaceful sleeping too.  But just plain warm milk does it as well. 


Also, tv has been shown to cause wakefulness.  We have found that eliminating tv for at least an hour or 2 before bed can help. 

post #10 of 10

what kind of melatonin did you use?  there are some that have B vitamins added and some that do not, I noticed my son with ASD had a hard time with the b-vitamin version. With plain melatonin all it takes is 1 mg and he's out! When he was a toddler he would often stay up very late then wake up at 4 in the morning. I finally discovered melatonin when he was 4. The issue I had with it was that he still woke up pretty early- still does- but was at least falling asleep earlier. As he has gotten older he has gotten much better at falling asleep on his own- kind of like we reset his internal clock. NOW I have a general rule: if he wakes up before 5, he gets melatonin. 1 mg, I turn music on and rub his back awhile and make sure the rest of the house is dark. He usually sleeps a few more hours, though not always. I notice when he has busy days- school, therapy, lots of outdoor play, etc- he falls asleep easier and sleeps longer. On days he is home and more lazy, he sleeps less. Another big turning point for him was when he went GFCF at 3. He used to sleep so poorly, have weird reverse night terrors- giggling fits in his sleep I couldn't wake him from, sleep walking, etc. That stopped almost  completely after going gfcf. Good luck! I know how rough those early mornings with pregnancy are!

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