The hormone melatonin, sold in the United States as an over-the-counter supplement, is a popular sleep aid. A string of studies over the past decade suggest it also improves sleep in some children with autism, reports Spectrum News.

Most of the studies supporting its use in autism have included only a few dozen children1,2. But in one study of 134 children with autism, melatonin improved sleep in 63 percent of the children who received it. It was particularly effective when combined with behavioral treatment3.

In November, researchers published results from a clinical trial of 125 children with autism for a new melatonin product4. Called PedPRM, the pills release melatonin slowly into the bloodstream, and represent the first melatonin formulation developed by a pharmaceutical company. The pill helped 38 of the 56 children who received it fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. (The other 61 children took a placebo, and 12 of them showed improvement.)