Efficacy of Melatonin for Sleep Disturbance in Children with Persistent Post-Concussion Symptoms: Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Controlled Trial Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Sleep disturbances are commonly reported in children with persistent post-concussion symptoms (PPCS). Melatonin treatment is often recommended, yet supporting evidence is scarce. We aimed to evaluate the efficacy of treatment with melatonin for sleep disturbance in youth with PPCS following mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). This article is a secondary analysis of a clinical trial of melatonin compared with placebo to treat PPCS. Youth (8-18 years of age) with PPCS and significant sleep-related problems (SRPs) at 4-6 weeks post-injury were eligible. Exclusion criteria: significant medical/psychiatric history; previous concussion/mTBI within 3 months. Treatment groups were: placebo, melatonin 3 mg, or melatonin 10 mg. Primary outcome was change in SRPs measured using the Post-Concussion Symptom Inventory (PCSI) after 2 weeks of treatment. Secondary outcomes included change in actigraphy sleep efficiency, duration, onset latency, and wake-after-sleep-onset. Behavior was measured using Behaviour Assessment for Children (2nd edition). Seventy-two participants (mean age 14.0, standard deviation [SD] = 2.6) years; 60% female) with PPCS and significant sleep disturbance were included in the secondary analysis: placebo (n = 22); melatonin 3 mg (n = 25); melatonin 10 mg (n = 25). Sixty-four participants had actigraphy data. SRPs decreased across all groups over time with a significant effect of melatonin 3 mg (3.7; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 2.1, 5.4) compared with placebo (7.4; 95% CI: 4.2, 10.6) and melatonin 10 mg (6.4; 95% CI: 3.6, 9.2). Sleep duration increased in the melatonin 3 mg (43 min; 95% CI: 6, 93) and melatonin 10 mg groups (55 min; 95% CI: 5, 104) compared with placebo. A per protocol analysis demonstrated improved sleep efficiency in the melatonin 10 mg group (p = 0.029). No serious adverse events were reported. Depressive symptoms significantly decreased with melatonin 3 mg (-4.7; 95% CI: -9.2, -.2) but not with melatonin 10 mg (-1.4, 95% CI: -5.9, 3.2) treatment compared with placebo. Changes in cognition or behavior were otherwise not significantly different between treatment groups. Short-term melatonin is a well-tolerated treatment for sleep disturbance in youth with PPCS following mTBI. In this context, it may also be associated with a reduction in depressive symptoms.


  • Barlow, Karen Maria
  • Kirk, Valerie
  • Brooks, Brian
  • Esser, Michael Joachim
  • Yeates, Keith Owen
  • Zemek, Roger
  • Kirton, Adam
  • Mikrogianakis, Angelo
  • MacMaster, Frank
  • Nettel-Aguirre, Alberto
  • Hutchison, James
  • Turley, Brenda
  • Cameron, Candice
  • Hill, Michael
  • Boyd, Roslyn
  • Dewey, Deborah

publication date

  • April 15, 2021