What to Know Before Giving Your Child Melatonin

child trying to sleep

Between 2007 and 2012 the sale of melatonin, a hormone supplement designed to promote sleep, more than doubled. While we don’t know how many  parents are using melatonin to help their kids sleep, there’s plenty of discussion around this topic.

We asked our expert, “Is melatonin safe for kids?”

Psychologist and Sleep Disorders Expert William David Brown, Ph.D., with Children’s Medical Center says the melatonin supplement is generally considered safe and effective when used short-term and in the appropriate dose.

William David Brown, Ph.D.

William David Brown, Ph.D.

Dr. Brown says melatonin may be an acceptable last resort, but parents should try other bedtime routine adjustments such as turning off the TV earlier, avoiding sweets near bedtime and maintaining a consistent bedtime routine that includes calm, quiet activities such as reading.

Exposure to bright early morning light can also set the body’s clock and help kids be ready for sleep at bedtime. Eating breakfast outside may be a good way for your child to get the sunlight their body needs for good sleep and a dose of vitamin D, too.

When evaluating if your child needs melatonin, always check with your child’s pediatrician, and understand some of the potential drawbacks.

Potential Drawbacks of Melatonin

Lack of Research. There is not a great deal of research on the long-term impact of melatonin use in children.
Not for Those With Autoimmune Disorders. Melatonin can boost the immune system, so it's not recommended for anyone with an autoimmune disorder, such as celiac disease or arthritis.
Dosage. Melatonin is most commonly sold in doses made for adults. Children should only be given between 0.3 to 1 milligrams of melatonin.
Morning Grogginess. A fairly common after effect of using a melatonin supplement in the evening, is that your child may have difficulty wakening quickly in the morning.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the brain to help regulate the natural sleep cycle. It’s production is partly affected by light and melatonin supplements are used to treat several symptoms including to help control sleep and wake cycles.

For  more on what Dr. Brown has to say on giving your child melatonin, check out CBS’ Tracy Kornet’s report on Parents Using Hormone Supplement to Get Kids to Sleep.

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3 Responses to What to Know Before Giving Your Child Melatonin

  1. Thank you, Dr. Brown.

    This is a great post with helpful information on this most important topic.

    The sleep health and wellness of the pediatric population is critically important and warrants extensive attention, research and educational efforts.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Angela Patterson November 10, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

    My 8-year-old daughter has Angelman Syndrome. We SWEAR by melatonin in addition to her 2 RXs. It’s a way of life for us. We hope it’s healthy but can’t live without it now….

  3. Sarah Burns November 8, 2013 at 8:25 am #

    Great post – we recently began giving our son melatonin because it was taking him hours to fall asleep. He’s taken about .25mg nightly for three weeks and we’ve seen dramatic improvement in his behavior and attitude during the day.

    Sleep is important!

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