Background: Melatonin prescriptions for children and adolescents have increased substantially during the last decade. Existing clinical recommendations focus on melatonin as a treatment for insomnia related to neurodevelopmental disorders. To help guide clinical decision-making, we aimed to construct a recommendation on the use of melatonin in children and adolescents aged 5–20 years with idiopathic chronic insomnia. Methods: A systematic search for guidelines, systematic reviews and randomised controlled trials (RCT) were performed in Medline, Embase, Cochrane Library, PsycInfo, Cinahl, Guidelines International Network, Trip Database, Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health, American Academy of Sleep Medicine, European Sleep Research Society and Scandinavian Health Authorities databases. A search for adverse events in otherwise healthy children and adolescents was also performed. The latest search for guidelines, systematic reviews, and adverse events was performed on March 18, 2023. The latest search for RCTs was performed on to February 6, 2023. The language was restricted to English, Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish. Eligible participants were children and adolescents (5–20 years of age) with idiopathic chronic insomnia, in whom sleep hygiene practices have been inadequate and melatonin was tested. There were no restrictions on dosage, duration of treatment, time of consumption, or release formula. Primary outcomes were quality of sleep, daytime functioning and serious adverse events. Secondary outcomes included total sleep time, sleep latency, awakenings, drowsiness, quality of life, all-cause dropouts, and non-serious adverse events. Outcomes were assessed at different time points to assess short-term and long-term effects. Meta-analysis was performed using inverse variance random-effects model and risk of bias was assessed using Cochrane risk of bias tool. If possible, funnel plots would be constructed to investigate publication bias. Heterogeneity was calculated via I2 statistics. A multidisciplinary guideline panel formulated the recommendation according to Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE). The certainty of evidence was considered either high, moderate, low or very low depending on the extent of risk of bias, inconsistency, imprecision, indirectness, or publication bias. The evidence-to-decision framework was subsequently used to discuss the feasibility and acceptance of the constructed recommendation alongside the impact on resources and equity. The protocol is registered with the Danish Health Authority. Findings: We included eight RCTs with 419 children and adolescents with idiopathic chronic insomnia. Melatonin led to a moderate increase in total sleep time by 30.33 min (95% confidence interval (CI) 18.96–41.70, 4 studies, I2 = 0%) and a moderate reduction in sleep latency by 18.03 min (95% CI −26.61 to −9.44, 3 studies, I2 = 0%), both as assessed by sleep diary. No other beneficial effects were found. None of the studies provided information on serious adverse events, yet the number of participants experiencing non-serious adverse events was increased (Relative risk 3.44, 95% CI 1.25–9.42, 4 studies, I2 = 0%). Funnel plots were not constructed due to the low number of studies. The certainty of evidence was very low on the quality of sleep and low for daytime functioning. Interpretation: Evidence of very low certainty shows that benefits are limited and unwanted events are likely when melatonin is used to treat otherwise healthy children and adolescents with chronic insomnia. Melatonin should never be the first choice of treatment for this particular population, yet carefully monitored short-term use may be considered if sleep hygiene practices and non-pharmacological interventions have proven inadequate, and only if daytime function is compromised. Funding: The Danish Health Authority and the Parker Institute, Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospital supported by the Oak Foundation.
Bibliografisk noteFunding Information:
The Danish Health Authority and the Parker Institute, Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospital supported by the Oak Foundation.We would like to thank the guideline panel, reference group and the secretary of the “National clinical recommendation for the use of melatonin in children and adolescents with insomnia” published by the Danish Health Authority. The Parker Institute, Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospital, is supported by a core grant from the Oak Foundation Oak Foundation (OCAY-18-774-OFIL).
We would like to thank the guideline panel, reference group and the secretary of the “National clinical recommendation for the use of melatonin in children and adolescents with insomnia” published by the Danish Health Authority. The Parker Institute , Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospital, is supported by a core grant from the Oak Foundation Oak Foundation ( OCAY-18-774-OFIL ).