Studies have shown that between 70 and 80% of children diagnosed with Autism struggle with sleep disorders (Source 1). This is particularly frustrating because those experiencing developmental challenges can generally see improvement in behavior and symptoms by getting adequate sleep and staying on a schedule. Sadly, although it doesn’t make sense, those that need sleep the most have the hardest time getting it.
There have been several studies done on the use of melatonin to help promote healthy sleep with those that have autism and the results have been overwhelmingly positive. They have concluded that the supplementation of melatonin helps those experiencing sleep disorders get the sleep they need, stick to a healthy schedule, and continue optimal development with no reported side effects (see source 1 and 2). Melatonin has been shown to help those on the autism spectrum that have difficulty sleeping, fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake up less frequently in the night.
Melatonin is created naturally in the body by the pineal gland in the brain as well as in the GI track. Researchers have discovered that those with autism have less melatonin in the body and have trouble making more melatonin (Source 4). That being said, supplementing with melatonin before bed can drastically help.
This is a great synapses to read that summarizes and links to over 20 medical studies done on ASD and melatonin. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24050742