New advice on the use of melatonin in children

New advice on the use of melatonin in children

An advice is issued regarding over-the-counter melatonin supplements.


When it’s bedtime, what parents really want is for their kids to sleep. Not only do parents want their kids to get the rest they need, but parents want to get some rest themselves! So it’s understandable that when kids have trouble sleeping, many parents turn to melatonin. Recent warnings about melatonin make this questionable.

What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone made by the body to regulate sleep. Commercially, it is sold over the counter as a sleep aid. If you give your body more of the hormone that helps you sleep, you are more likely to fall asleep, right? This is not always true, of course; For many people, taking more melatonin does little or nothing. But for some people, it helps – including some children.

Over the past two decades, the use of melatonin supplements has increased significantly. It is the second most “natural” product that parents give their children after multivitamins.

Health Advice About Melatonin Supplements for Kids

When too many people do something, things can go wrong. Indeed, there have been many reports of melatonin overdoses in children. While overdose can lead to excessive sleepiness, headache, nausea, or agitation, most of the time it is not dangerous. This does not mean that over-the-counter melatonin is completely safe. In fact, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recently released a file health advice With warnings about its use.

Over-the-counter melatonin is classified as a dietary supplement. This means that it is not regulated by the FDA in the way that over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or diphenhydramine are regulated. There is no oversight of what companies put in the melatonin that parents buy.

And what they put in it is exactly the issue. The AASM warns that the actual amount of melatonin in tablets or liquids can vary, from less than what the label says to much more. The biggest difference is in the chewable tablets, which unfortunately are the ones that children are most likely to take. It’s also hard – even impossible – to know what might be in a supplement. The AASM reports that some melatonin products also contain serotonin, a hormone and neurotransmitter that requires a prescription.

Helping children sleep well

The thing is, while some kids really benefit from melatonin, like kids with neurological or neurodevelopmental issues, most don’t need it to get a good night’s sleep. Before buying a sleep aid — especially one that might not contain what you think it does — there are a few strategies parents should try first.

  • Get your child or teen on a regular sleep schedule. For teens, this sleep schedule should preferably include sleeping at night rather than during the day. It’s okay if your child stays a little late for the weekend or while on vacation, but try not to vary too much. Our bodies are more likely to drift off to sleep when we are used to falling asleep at a certain time.
  • Ensure that your child exercises during the day; It helps them feel more tired at bedtime.
  • Once your child has given up naps, don’t nap. If they come home from school tired because they’ve been up late, don’t let them take a nap – it will make it harder for them to fall asleep that night.
  • Get a calming routine before bed. This can be difficult for high school students with math practices and homework, but to the extent that you can limit the stimulating things right before bed, please do so. Consider taking a shower, reading, and generally being calmer as bedtime approaches.
  • Close the screens. The blue light from screens can wake up the brain, and it’s easy to get immersed in whatever you’re doing on that screen. Ideally, screens should be turned off two hours before bed. For teens, it’s best to charge phones somewhere else besides the bedroom. If your teens say they need the phone as their morning alarm, buy them an alarm.
  • Create a sleep environment conducive to sleep. Not having a TV or other device helps. For some kids, room darkening curtains are great; For others, night lighting is important. A white noise machine can help if there is ambient noise. Make the space inviting and comfortable – for sleeping. It is better that children do not hang out in bed during the day or do their homework there; The bed should be for sleeping.

If you have tried all of this and your child is still having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor before giving him melatonin. There may be other issues at play. By brainstorming together, you may come up with ideas.

If you decide to use melatonin:

  • Select a product with the USP Verified label, as it is likely to be of higher quality.
  • Start with a low dose.
  • Do not give it every night. If you do, your child’s body gets used to it and you end up overdoing it.

Bottom line: If your child has trouble sleeping, there are a lot of things to try before trying melatonin. Talk to your doctor before you buy it — or try it.

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