Melatonin is a hormone, naturally produced by the body. When we sleep at night, we produce more melatonin than we do during the day. Some of us have low melatonin levels, exacerbated by not having adequate nighttime sleep. Low melatonin causes sleep disturbances – so it’s a Catch 22. It’s a problem for night shift workers as their circadian rhythm is all over the place and they’re awake when their body wants to sleep, and vice versa. It’s a common problem for other groups as well and that’s how this topic has earned its place in the glossary. You know what I’m going to say… Yep, it’s yet another common feature for neurodivergents – both autistics and ADHDers.

Low melatonin isn’t the only possible cause of insomnia for us, but it’s one that can be tested, using saliva. If our melatonin levels are found to be low (in the early hours of the morning) then some of us can be prescribed a short course of melatonin, aimed at increasing our levels, so that we can break the cycle of sleeplessness. As with all prescription drugs, there are side effects, which you can find listed on the NHS website.

In some countries you can buy melatonin spray, gummies or tablets over the counter, but in the UK it is a prescription-only drug. This is sensible really as it isn’t safe for everyone to take it. Those who need to be cautious include, but are not limited to:

  • The under 55s
  • Those with auto-immune conditions
  • Those with high blood pressure, liver or kidney problems

This is one of those things that definitely needs professional advice, as there are so many different contributors to sleep deprivation.

For more information on sleep and neurodivergence, click here → to go to Dr Neff’s page.

The National Autistic Society has teamed up with The Sleep Charity, to raise awareness about the large scale problem of sleep deprivation in our society. The Sleep Charity has a Helpline that you can call for advice on how to improve your sleep patterns → click here for the phone number and opening hours.