Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in the pineal gland of your brain. The purpose of this hormone is to help regulate your sleep cycles. When it gets dark, your brain produces more of this chemical, which helps you feel sleepy and prepare for bed. During the day, this chemical is essentially dormant.
Even though melatonin is naturally produced in the brain, people all over the world take melatonin supplements in the form of liquids, gummies, pills, and chewable tablets. These supplements can help with insomnia, interrupted sleep cycles, and other sleep-related issues.
Proven to be safe for adults, melatonin may be a solution — in certain circumstances — for some children. It should always come secondary to building and enforcing a healthy sleep schedule. You should also consult with your pediatrician before giving melatonin or a supplement or medication of any kind to your child.
When it comes to children, melatonin may be helpful. About 25% of children have sleep-onset delay, which means that it takes longer for them to fall asleep than is considered normal. Many parents have used melatonin to help their children fall asleep faster.
Research indicates that certain children might benefit from melatonin more than others, such as those with:
If your child is restless at night, the first approach is to employ sleep-training techniques, such as:
- Set and maintain regular, routine bedtimes.
- Manage the frequency and duration of naps.
- Turn off electronic devices and lights before bedtime.
- Address other conditions that affect sleeplessness, such as anxiety, nutrition, and illness.
In 2012, about 3.1 million American adults and 419,000 children used Melatonin.
When it comes to toxicity, it appears to be safe for short-term use. Due to the lack of research, its safety for long-term use is unknown.
Although melatonin is safe for most people, some people can have harmful side effects or complications.
Concerns have been raised about melatonin and its possible effect on the development of the reproductive system. Children should not be given melatonin without a sound medical reason and monitoring by your child’s pediatrician.
If you want to give your child melatonin, you always should consult your doctor first to determine the appropriate dosage. Side effects in children are rare, but common side effects from taking too much of this supplement can include:
Despite the fact that melatonin appears to be safe, there are no long-term studies of melatonin on babies or children. Therefore, there is no way to know if prolonged use will have noticeable or unsafe side effects.
Melatonin generally seems safe and it can be effective for certain adults and children with sleep disorders. The majority of studies evaluating melatonin have been focused on adults. While, a few studies have evaluated melatonin in children with specific conditions that cause sleep difficulties, most research so far is preliminary and often inconclusive.
If your child is having difficulty sleeping, the best first step is to work with your child to build healthy sleep habits such as a sleep schedule. If that isn’t working, talk with your doctor about other options. Depending on your child’s individual situation, melatonin might be an option worth discussing.