Melatonin For Kids - Is It A Good Idea?
The use of melatonin to help with sleep problems has grown in the last decade. Our verdict is: while parents should not give melatonin to their children without first attempting to improve their child’s sleep hygiene, melatonin is widely considered safe for children. A common improvement could be limiting screen/computer time an hour before bed. Here’s a list of 50 other sleep optimization tips.
If your child has difficulty sleeping in addition to ADHD, visit this article which directly discusses the use of melatonin for kids with ADHD.
- What exactly is Melatonin anyway?
- Melatonin For Kids
- Melatonin Safety
- Tips For Using Melatonin Safely and Correctly
What exactly is Melatonin anyway?
Melatonin is a sleep-promoting neurohormone. Melatonin has an advantage over other common OTC sleep aids because it is already present (endogenous) in your brain. The idea is, instead of introducing something foreign into your body, why not just increase the amount of a substance (melatonin) that already regulates sleep and wake?
Melatonin is both a chronobiotic (it regulates circadian rhythm) and a somnogen (a sleep-promoting substance). Melatonin secreted by the pineal gland peaks in the evening and drops off in the morning.
Melatonin helps synchronize the physiological functions of your body to the environment based on light and temperature cues. Both low light and low temperatures correspond with an increase in melatonin that helps facilitate sleep onset.
Melatonin For Kids
Parents who are concerned about their children’s sleep may turn to melatonin to help with sleep problems. Melatonin is considered mildly-to-moderately effective at reducing the symptoms of insomnia, but in many cases of insomnia is insufficient by itself.
Whether it is a good idea to give your child melatonin depends on a number of factors. In general, it is always better to try behavioral interventions (or lifestyle changes) before turning to medication. Behavioral interventions for alleviating insomnia include the following:
- Practicing good sleep hygiene (going to bed and waking up the same time each day)
- Getting plenty of exercise (at least three hours before bed)
- Avoiding stimulating activities within one hour of bedtime (e.g., no video games, television) Make your bedroom cool (low temperatures tend to facilitate sleep)
- Eliminate light sources that might interfere with sleep (e.g., blinking electronics)
- If your child has trouble winding down every night despite trying the above, you may want to consider adding melatonin into the mix.
Melatonin is a good first medication to try because it is relatively benign, has minimal side effects, and is already naturally present in your body.
Some parents may be concerned about the safety of melatonin for kids. Melatonin is considered to be a relatively benign substance, though the FDA has not classified melatonin as generally recognized as safe (GRAS).
While there is no evidence that melatonin is unsafe and melatonin apparently lacks serious side effects, melatonin directly affects your bodies’ physiology and should not be used flippantly.
A few things to keep in mind are that, since dietary supplements are unregulated in the US, and melatonin is a dietary supplement, melatonin has not been rigorously evaluated or approved by the FDA. Also, the long-term effects of melatonin use has never really been studied in children.
In summary, melatonin should not be used a crutch when lifestyle factors could be changed that would resolve sleep problems, but melatonin is probably indicated for children if these changes aren’t sufficient by themselves.
Make sure you to don’t give your child too much melatonin, resulting in melatonin overdose. Lower doses of melatonin (0.3 mg – 1mg are just as effective as 3mg doses).
Tips For Using Melatonin Safely and Correctly
- Timing is everything. Administer melatonin 1.5-2 hours before bed, not right at your child’s bedtime
- Exhaust non-medication options before turning to melatonin
- Start with lower doses (0.5-1mg) before trying higher doses (3mg); less is more!
- Consult your physician about using melatonin to help with your child’s sleep issues
- Don’t use melatonin as an excuse to not enforce good sleep hygiene