Sleep disturbance is one of the common complains for parents caring for children with eczema. Disruption in sleep is reported in 47% to 60% of children with eczema. Many times, the chronic itching and scratching during the night impairs the quality of sleep and wakes up both the children and the parents.
Melatonin is a natural hormone secreted by the pineal gland and is important in regulating the sleep cycle. Oral melatonin has been used for the management of the jet leg and insomnia. A recent randomized clinical trial from Taiwan was conducted to see if oral melatonin supplementation for children with eczema can improve their sleep cycle.
In the study1, 38 patients aged 1 to 18 years with eczema involving at least 5% of the body surface area and sleep problems occurring more than 3 days a week were randomized to receive either oral melatonin (3 mg/day) or a matching placebo drug at bedtime for 4 weeks, then crossed over to the alternative assignment for another 4 weeks.
Eczema severity is measured on the Scoring Atopic Dermatitis Index. Eczema improved by a mean of 9.1 points out of a possible 103 points in the group taking melatonin compared to the placebo group. Also, melatonin significantly reduced the sleep onset latency by more than half compared with placebo group. More patients and families subjectively reported that their skin condition improved when taking melatonin compared to placebo (47% versus 32%). And more families reported that sleep improved when taking melatonin compared with placebo (46% versus 34%). During the study, no adverse side effects were reported.
In conclusion, the researchers suggested and recommended that melatonin supplementation for patients with eczema is potentially a safe and effective way to improve sleep and the skin condition simultaneously.
1. Chang YS, Lin MH, Lee JH et al. Melatonin supplementation for Trojan with atopic dermatitis and the sleep disturbance: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Pediatr 2016:170(1) 35-42.