Is Melatonin Safe For Kids? A Definitive Guide For Parents
Is your child's lack of sleep affecting her mental health or productivity, either at home, school, or social events?
Have you tried singing songs, reading bedtime stories, even cuddling and it doesn’t seem effective? Are you depriving yourself of your own sleep because of bedtime shenanigans to put your kid to sleep?
Studies have shown that at least 15 out of 100 children have difficulties sleeping and this is a cause for concern because kids need enough sleep to help them grow. It is also estimated that up to 75% of school-aged children don’t get enough sleep.
Sleeplessness has its disadvantages, ranging from obesity to poor mental health conditions, and lack of concentration that affects their productivity. If an adult can't go a day without sleep, it shows how much kids need it more.
To help their kids sleep better, most parents have turned to melatonin - a hormone supplement and sleep aid. Some pediatricians even recommend it to children battling insomnia.
If you have given your kid melatonin in the past, or just discovered it and want to try it, but you want to know if melatonin is actually safe for your kid, keep reading to find out.
What is Melatonin?
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), defines Melatonin as a hormone in your brain, released by the pineal gland at night, in response to darkness.
In other words, it is mostly released in the evening and less in the morning because bright light reduces/stops its production.
Melatonin is also known as the sleep hormone. It helps you sleep by timing your circadian rhythm and also controlling your sleep-wake cycle.
The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle in which a person’s brain switches between states of alertness and drowsiness. The circadian rhythm does not only determine the way we sleep but also the way we eat.
It’s also believed that the function of melatonin in the body goes beyond sleep. It also plays a major role in other functions of the body, including regulating blood pressure, immune functions, body temperature, etc.
Synthetic melatonin is made by pharmaceutical companies as dietary supplements. It’s available to patients as gummies, chewable tablets, pills, or liquid, and can be gotten over the counter (OTC) in the United States.
This means you do not necessarily need a prescription from your doctor, to have access to it. For other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and most European countries, a doctor’s prescription is needed to access melatonin.
Melatonin supplements work as a carbon copy of the one released naturally in our bodies. When taken, it may put you in that drowsy state that makes you fall asleep.
Studies suggest that when melatonin supplements are consumed, it doesn’t stop the production of the body’s melatonin.
The inability to sleep may occur when the pineal gland doesn’t produce melatonin or delays in secreting melatonin.
So, if your child is experiencing difficulties falling asleep, this may be the cause.
This leads us to the next question.
Can melatonin help my child sleep?
I know you must be wondering if melatonin supplements can help your kid sleep.
You’re tired of the bedtime Clash of Titans, and never-ending struggle.
You should understand that children may find it difficult to sleep for many reasons, such as:
- Restless leg syndrome (needing to move the legs at bedtime, often associated with uncomfortable feelings in the legs)
- side effects of medications, etc.
However, some evidence suggests that melatonin can actually make kids fall asleep faster and improve the quality of sleep especially children with Autism, ADHD, and other neurodevelopmental disorders.
Studies have proven that melatonin can help children with sleep-related problems fall asleep when given the right dosage.
Melatonin and Children With Epilepsy
A small 2015 study investigated melatonin as a sleeping aid for children with epilepsy. The researchers found that children who took 9 mg of sustained-release melatonin fell asleep 11.4 minutes faster than children who took a placebo.
This may not be much of a difference, but for parent’s those few minutes might just be a lifesaver.
Melatonin and Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders
One of the main symptoms of autism spectrum disorder is difficulty sleeping. Up to 80% of children with autism have trouble sleeping. This can be due to a number of factors, including problems with melatonin production, sensory overloads during the night, and anxiety about sleep.
With Autism spectrum disorder affecting an increasing number of children around the world every year, more parents are turning to melatonin to help their children sleep and manage their condition.
While melatonin is not a cure for autism spectrum disorder, it can be an effective tool in managing some of the associated symptoms.
In a study, 107 children (aged 2-18) with a confirmed diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders were investigated. These children received melatonin doses varying from 0.75 to 6 mg.
Findings revealed that 27 children no longer reported sleep concerns. 60 children reported improved quality of sleep, but still had concerns, while 14 children continued to report major sleep concerns.
Another study revealed that parents of children with neurological disorders perceive that melatonin helps in alleviating their child’s symptoms.
Melatonin and Children With ADHD
Some children with ADHD may experience more difficulty falling asleep compared to their non-ADHD peers due to the constant hyperactivity throughout the day.
One potential solution for helping ADHD children to get a good night's sleep is melatonin.
A recent study published in The Journal of Pediatrics showed that melatonin was found to effectively treat sleep problems in ADHD children. Many parents had reported success with melatonin on their children, which led researchers to perform a randomized control trial (RCT).
The clinical trial started off recruiting 40 ADHD children who suffered from persistent sleep disorders. Half of the group received melatonin while the other half received a placebo for eight weeks.
The results of the study showed that melatonin was significantly more effective than the placebo in improving sleep quality and quantity for ADHD children. Not only did the melatonin help the children to fall asleep quicker, but it also helped them to stay asleep throughout the night.
These findings suggest that melatonin could be a valuable treatment option for sleep problems in ADHD children.
Another study found that children fell asleep 16 minutes faster after taking melatonin.
Melatonin and Healthy Children With Insomnia
Even for healthy children with insomnia, studies have shown that melatonin may help them fall asleep faster and improve the quality of sleep.
A 2017 study examined the effects of melatonin in children with chronic sleep-onset insomnia (SOI). Children with SOI have difficulty falling asleep.
The researchers divided the children into groups and gave each group one of the following:
- 3 milligram (mg) tablets of fast-release melatonin
- Light therapy
- A placebo
The study revealed that melatonin was more effective in making children fall asleep than the placebo. For one, it reduced the time it took for the children to fall asleep.
The researchers also found that melatonin had better and more effective when compared to light therapy.
From different studies, melatonin has been found to treat a wide range of sleep-related problems in children, like:
- Circadian rhythm disorders
- Sleep disorders as a result of mental issues
- Delayed Sleep-Wake Syndrome (DSWS)
- Jet Lag
The list goes on and on…
But as we established earlier, there are varieties of reasons why your child may be experiencing difficulties falling asleep.
So, while Melatonin may help your child sleep better and improve the quality of their sleep, other bedtime behavioral interventions should be followed.
We’ll look at some of these further down the guide.
How safe is melatonin safe for kids?
As a parent even though you know melatonin may help your child sleep better, you should be more concerned about how safe it is for your child.
Would it affect your child’s growth and development?
Can it be taken every day?
Can you overdose on melatonin?
All these are valid concerns.
There have been mixed answers to this question about how safe melatonin is for kids.
For one, in 2015, Australian experts warned that parents stopped giving their children melatonin.
Natural Sleep Org perused over 24 studies on the effects of melatonin for kids and concluded that melatonin has no side effects and is safe for kids.
Medscape is of the opinion that there is no evidence to show that taking melatonin on a daily basis is harmful. But they noted that there are no large-scale multicenter clinical trials to really test that.
However, most studies show that for kids, short-term use of melatonin is safe, and has little to no side effects.
Studies have been carried out by experts and results have shown that children who have been using melatonin for over three years have shown no significant side effects.
Additionally, the Central Ohio Poison Center, noted that they have managed more than 500 children per year with an unintentional ingestion of melatonin gummies (in many cases whole bottles, up to 90 gummies) without any significant effects.
Research has also proven that melatonin is a non-addictive drug.
So, as a parent, you should worry less about addiction if you’re giving your child melatonin.
What are the Side Effects of Melatonin in Kids?
According to a 2013 review, some children taking melatonin did experience mild side effects, such as headaches, dizziness, and bedwetting in the evening. These symptoms were resolved once melatonin ingestion was stopped.
It is also important to note that there is little research into the safety of long-term melatonin use in children.
However, there is a significant positive effect of melatonin in children compared to negative side effects.
When using melatonin, if your child begins to show abnormal symptoms, then discontinue its use and visit your doctor.
At Privinta, we advise parents to use melatonin for the short term combined with proper sleep habits.
When should Melatonin be taken?
The most important factor to consider when taking melatonin is the timing. It is advised to take melatonin one to four hours before the desired bedtime. It gradually lets the body know it's time to rest by sending signals to the brain.
Taking melatonin long before bedtime or during the day or when there is a bright light, may not make the supplement effective at all.
At Privinta, we advise you to give your kid melatonin 30 minutes to 1 hour before bedtime. This is what we have noticed to be effective for parents who give their kids melatonin.
What’s the Right Dosage?
While we have discussed that overdosing on melatonin may have no significant side effects, you want to ensure that you’re playing it safe.
Most times some brands package melatonin either above or below the optimal dose required for kids to fall asleep.
A recent study showed that the amount of melatonin can vary anywhere from -83% to +478% from the labeled dose. Additionally, the study revealed that serotonin - a medicine used in other conditions, and also a neurotransmitter was found in 71% of samples.
With melatonin supplements, you may not know what you’re getting. This is why we advise you read thoroughly the ingredients before purchasing.
Some studies recommend a maximum dose of 3 mg for children less than 88 lbs/40kg, and 5 mg for children more than 88 lbs /40 kg.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, many children will respond well to doses as low as 0.5 or 1 mg. In their opinion, most children who do benefit from melatonin don't need any more than 3 to 6 mg even those with ADHD.
At Privinta each melatonin gummy contains 1 mg of melatonin. While young teens and adults can even go above even 5 mg, keeping the dose very low is recommended for children.
For children between 1-3 years of age, we recommend 1 gummy, which equals 1mg of melatonin, and 2 gummies i.e 2 mg of melatonin for children from 4 and above.
You also want to assess your child after she takes melatonin. If you feel that even 1mg of melatonin is too much, then you can reduce it to half a gummy.
Mg of Melatonin
0.5 to 1 mg
The reason why there is no prescribed dosage is that melatonin has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
You can also consult with your doctor for advice on a safe dosage to get started with for your child.
When Should Melatonin not be Used?
As we have mentioned more than once in this guide, if your kid is having trouble falling asleep, there may be lots of reasons.
What you don’t want to do is give your child melatonin for every minor sleep problem. Only administer melatonin when there has been a consistent inability to sleep or sleep longer.
Therefore, do not give your child melatonin:
- If the inability to sleep is caused by something situational (such as anxiety from starting a new school year, or overactivity during the day)
- If insomnia is short term (maybe stemming from the side effects of a drug or illness)
- If insomnia is caused by underlying physical conditions such as sleep apnea.
At Privinta, we encourage parents not to substitute melatonin for healthy sleep practices.
Other Ways to Help Your Child Fall Asleep
If your child is having insomnia, before you start giving them melatonin, ensure you have tried natural sleep alternatives.
Here are some tips to help your child fall asleep and sleep better.
- Set a bedtime: Training your child to fall asleep and wake up at a particular time helps to set their body’s internal clock. This makes them fall asleep faster when it's bedtime.
- Set a bedtime routine: Routines are powerful, especially when it comes to making kids sleep quickly. This could be tucking them in bed 15 minutes before bedtime and reading a story, saying a prayer, brushing their teeth, or taking a bath close to bedtime. Whatever routine you feel would work best for your child, set it and stick to it.
- Limit the use of electronic devices before bedtime: Light from TV, Ipads, etc, may delay the secretion of melatonin which helps your child sleep better. Create a routine that prevents them from using light-emitting devices 1-2 hours before bedtime. This gives your body ample time to adjust and produce melatonin.
- Help them relax: overactivity during the day, or stress from school can make it difficult for your kid to sleep. Find a way to get them to relax. They can read a book, listen to cool music, or practice breathing meditation. For younger children, you can read them a book, or sing a lullaby
- Eat the right amount at the right time: Ensure your child has eaten a satisfying meal at the right time. Getting hungry before bedtime or being too full can make it difficult to fall asleep.
- Get Plenty of Natural light during the day: Help and encourage your child to get plenty of sunlight during the day especially in the mornings. Plenty of sunlight during the day will prevent melatonin production keeping them awake and alert during the day, and more sleepy during the night.
Keep the bedroom cool: Some kids find it difficult to sleep in warmer temperatures. So, keeping the bedroom cool helps them sleep faster. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the ideal bedroom temperature is between 60°F and 67°F.
Privinta’s Melatonin Gummy For Kids
If you have tried natural sleep solutions that don’t seem to work, you can try Privinta's melatonin gummy for kids.
Each gummy contains 1 mg of melatonin and passionflower extract to get your kid back on a regular sleep cycle.
Passionflower extract is a natural sedative that has been used since ancient times for better sleep.
Our melatonin gummy is 100% Natural and free from allergens. This means you don’t have to worry about your child having an allergic reaction after taking them.
Each bottle contains 60 gummies which means 2 months supply.
We advise you to give your child only one gummy each day, and at least 1 hour before bedtime.
Additionally, you can consult with your pediatrician to determine the right dosage for your kid.
Don’t forget to practice good sleeping habits, such as the ones we listed above even when you take our melatonin supplements. The goal is to help get your kid’s sleep-wake cycle back on track and help them sleep naturally without long-term use of melatonin.
Good quality sleep is crucial for your child as they grow and develop.
Melatonin has been proven to help kids fall asleep better and improve their quality of sleep. No effect has been found for short-term use of melatonin.
However, the long-term effects of melatonin use in children are not known. We ask parents to only use melatonin supplements as a short-term solution.
Does Melatonin work for everyone?
The answer is no. As I pointed out earlier, while some children showed positive results when given melatonin, others showed mild side effects according to studies.
In addition, there are a number of reasons why kids don't sleep, ranging from anxiety, stress, worry, pain, etc. What melatonin supplement does is mimic the natural secretion of melatonin, telling the body it’s time to sleep. It doesn’t force you to sleep as it is not a tranquilizer.
Good sleep habits including creating a bedtime routine, turning off electronic devices before bedtime, and keeping the bedroom cool are natural sleep solutions that may help your child sleep faster and better.
Only opt-in for melatonin, when you have tried all these to no avail. We also recommend that you discontinue its use, and consult your doctor before if you notice any allergies while using melatonin.