The use of melatonin to treat sleep disorder in adults with intellectual disabilities in community settings – the evaluation of three cases using actigraphy

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Abstract

Background

Sleep disorders are known to be very prevalent in adults with intellectual disabilities (ID) but to date there has been limited objective assessment of either sleep disorders or of interventions such as the use of melatonin.

Methodology

A protocol-driven assessment and intervention procedure was followed with three people with moderate to severe ID identified as having a possible sleep disorder. Actigraphic assessment was used to determine the nature of the sleep disorder, after which sleep hygiene advice and then individual treatment with melatonin were provided, following which further actigraphic assessment was carried out. Behavioural disturbance was formally assessed before and after the intervention phase.

Results

Following treatment with melatonin, changes in circadian rhythm were noted, together with improvements in challenging behaviour, but no significant effects were noted with regard to either quantity or quality of sleep.

Conclusions

A standardised procedure for assessment and treatment of sleep disorders in people with ID was established. Although no apparent effects on sleep quantity or quality were noted, this may reflect factors inherent in the sample, rather than the relative efficacy of melatonin treatment per se.

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