Use and Effectiveness of Sleep Medications by Parent Report in Individuals with Williams Syndrome

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Sleep disorders are common in individuals with Williams syndrome (WS), and sleep disturbance has a significant negative effect on attention, learning, and behavior. The use of sleep-inducing medicine in individuals with WS has not been widely investigated. The objective of this study was to evaluate the use and effectiveness of sleep medications among a large sample of individuals with WS by parent survey.


A survey of the use and effectiveness of sleep medications was completed by 513 (of 2846) members of the Williams Syndrome Association. The online survey asked for the age at initiation, degree of effectiveness (helpful, somewhat helpful, and not helpful), and side effects.


One hundred thirty participants (25%) indicated that their family member with WS had taken medication to help with sleep. Melatonin was the most commonly reported medication taken for sleep, with 91% of parents reporting that it was “helpful” or “somewhat helpful” for their child with WS. Those who reported taking melatonin reported very few, if any, side effects.


This parent-completed survey is a preliminary study showing the positive benefit of melatonin for individuals with WS who have disrupted sleep. The findings support the need for further study of the use of melatonin, in addition to behavioral sleep aids, given evidence that sleep disturbance negatively influences cognition and behavior.

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