Melatonin may be safe for adults and children with sleep disorders when taken as prescribed by a doctor. However, there isn’t enough evidence on infant safety, and more research is needed.

Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in the pineal gland of your brain. In some cases, it may help a child sleep but should be given along with helping the child to learn good sleep habits.

The purpose of melatonin is to help regulate your sleep cycles. When it gets dark, your brain produces more of the hormone, 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.

About 25-37% of children have difficulty falling or staying asleep. In addition, as many as 75% of children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental or mental health conditions experience sleep challenges.

Many caregivers have also used melatonin to help their children fall asleep faster, and it has been used safely in many cases. However, there is not a lot of research on safety in babies, and it is not necessarily a good choice for any child struggling to sleep.

Read on to learn about the safety of melatonin for babies and children.

There isn’t a lot of data on the safety of melatonin supplements for babies to improve sleep. Available research focuses primarily on the effect of melatonin in helping babies overcome oxidative stress.

That being said, it may be safe for babies and children in some cases if your doctor recommends it. It should always come secondary to building and enforcing a healthy sleep schedule.

It’s important to keep in mind that young babies are still learning how to sleep on a regular schedule. Most babies begin to sleep regularly about 6-18 weeks after birth.

In the second 6 months of their life, they usually sleep about 12-16 hours daily. Whether or not you give your baby melatonin, you should work on helping them establish this crucial skill.

This includes:

  • Setting and maintaining regular, routine bedtimes.
  • Managing the frequency and duration of naps.
  • Turning off electronic devices and lights before bedtime.
  • Giving meals at least 2 hours before bedtime
  • Ensuring children sleep in a safe space

The use of melatonin in children is growing. According to a 10-year study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the annual number of pediatric melatonin ingestions increased 530% between 2012 and 2021.

There is research-based evidence on giving melatonin to older children and adolescents. In some cases, maintaining good sleep habits is not enough, and a child may need additional help.

This applies to children with insomnia, anxiety, or other health issues that may affect sleep. In addition, those with neurodiversity, such as ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), might benefit more from melatonin.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers melatonin a dietary supplement. This means that the FDA does not regulate melatonin supplements the way it does with medications.

Though side effects in children are rare, they can include:

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine also recommends caution before giving melatonin to children for sleep, especially since many melatonin supplements contain different amounts, and determining a safe amount can be challenging.

In fact, the CDC reported that melatonin ingestions represented 4.9% of all pediatric ingestions reported to poison control in 2021, compared to just 0.6% in 2012

If you choose to give melatonin to your child, make sure to select products from reputable manufacturers. Here are the 16 best melatonin supplements for 2022, according to experts.

Some children should also not take melatonin, such as those with autoimmune conditions or lymphoproliferative disorders (LPD) or those taking immunosuppressants.

Concerns have also been raised about melatonin and its possible effect on the development of the reproductive system. However, this is not conclusive, and other research has refuted this.

In any case, children should not be given melatonin without a sound medical reason and monitoring by a pediatrician.

You should always consult with a doctor before determining the right melatonin dose for your child.

However, the Canadian Paediatric Society recommends 1 milligram (mg) of melatonin for infants, 2.5-3 mg for older children, and 5 mg for adolescents. Children with neurodiversity may receive as much as 10mg.

A child should be given melatonin 30-60 minutes before going to bed.

Melatonin generally may be safe for children in amounts approved by a doctor, and it can be effective for certain adults and children with sleep disorders.

However, there is not enough research on safety in infants. Few studies have evaluated melatonin in children with specific conditions that cause sleep difficulties, so much of the available research is not conclusive.

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. However, it may be wise to proceed with caution.