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Is Melatonin Safe for Kids? 

Written by Integrative Health Daily Staff

Natural Remedies for a Good Night’s Sleep

Why it matters: When a child is well rested, it benefits their overall wellbeing as well as that of the caregivers. Many parents look to over-the-counter aids to support their child’s sleep habits and often wonder, “Is melatonin safe for kids?” In this article, we’ll explore melatonin use in children, its safety, and natural alternatives that can help children achieve a good night’s rest. 

What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain, responsible for regulating sleep-wake cycles. Its levels increase during the evening hours and decrease during the day. Some individuals, including children, may struggle with sleep disturbances or insomnia and turn to melatonin supplements for relief.

Is Melatonin Safe for Kids?

While melatonin supplements are widely available over-the-counter and may seem like a quick solution to your child’s sleep troubles, it’s essential to consider the potential risks and benefits. 

Dr. Andrew Weil, a prominent integrative medicine expert, says, “Melatonin can be an effective short-term sleep aid for adults, but its use in children is more controversial”.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises parents to consult with their child’s pediatrician before administering melatonin supplements. This is because melatonin can interact with other medications, and its long-term effects on children’s growth, development, and hormonal systems are not yet fully understood. 

“While there is some evidence that melatonin may be helpful for children with specific sleep disorders, it should not be given to all children as a blanket remedy” . Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, a renowned expert in integrative medicine

 

In a study published in JAMA Pediatrics in 2020, researchers found that melatonin was more effective than placebo in improving sleep onset and sleep duration in children and adolescents with sleep disorders. However, they also emphasized the need for more research to evaluate melatonin’s long-term safety and efficacy in children.

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Natural Sleep Remedies for Kids

Rather than relying on melatonin supplements, consider trying these natural remedies to help your child establish healthy sleep habits:

  1. Create a consistent bedtime routine: Dr. Weil suggests establishing a regular bedtime routine to signal to your child’s brain that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. This routine may include a warm bath, reading a book, or engaging in calming activities.
  2. Limit screen time before bed: The blue light emitted from electronic devices can interfere with melatonin production, making it harder for your child to fall asleep. Encourage your child to engage in calming activities instead, like reading or listening to calming music.
  3. Ensure a sleep-friendly environment: Create a comfortable and relaxing bedroom atmosphere by keeping the room cool, dark, and quiet. Consider using blackout curtains, white noise machines, or a fan to create an optimal sleep environment (7).
  4. Encourage regular physical activity: Daily exercise can help regulate sleep patterns and promote restful sleep. Ensure your child participates in age-appropriate physical activities, such as playing sports, dancing, or simply playing outside (8).
  5. Practice relaxation techniques: Teach your child relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided imagery, to help them unwind and prepare for sleep.

Start Small For Success

  • Create a consistent bedtime routine and time
  • Limit screen time for at least an hour before bedtime
  • Set up an environment that is conducive for comfort and sleep
  • Add extra physical activity into the day
  • Teach your child relaxation techniques to prepare for rest

Conclusion

While melatonin may provide some relief for children with specific sleep disorders, it’s essential to consult with a pediatrician before administering it. Instead, focus on incorporating natural sleep remedies into your child’s routine, such as establishing a consistent bedtime schedule, limiting screen time, and encouraging physical activity. By adopting these healthy habits, you can foster a nurturing sleep environment that promotes restful nights for your child. If sleep continues to be problematic, reach out to an integrative practitioner for additional treatment options.

(1) National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.). Melatonin and sleep. Retrieved April 22, 2023, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/melatonin
(2) Weil, A. (2019, August 16). Melatonin for sleep? Dr. Weil’s expert advice. Dr. Weil’s Healthy Living. Retrieved April 22, 2023, from https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/sleep-issues/melatonin-for-sleep
(3) American Academy of Pediatrics. (2019, December 10). Melatonin: What parents need to know. HealthyChildren.org. Retrieved April 22, 2023, from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/sleep/Pages/Melatonin-and-Childrens-Sleep.aspx
(4) Low Dog, T. (2018). Fortify your life: Your guide to vitamins, minerals, and more. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic.
(5) Gringras, P., Nir, T., Breddy, J., Frydman-Marom, A., & Findling, R. L. (2020). Efficacy and safety of pediatric prolonged-release melatonin for insomnia in children with autism spectrum disorder. JAMA Pediatrics, 174(1), 63-70. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.3996
(6) LeBourgeois, M. K., Hale, L., Chang, A. M., Akacem, L. D., Montgomery-Downs, H. E., & Buxton, O. M. (2017). Digital media and sleep in childhood and adolescence. Pediatrics, 140(Supplement 2), S92-S96. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2016-1758JJ
(7) National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.). How to create the ideal sleep environment. Retrieved April 22, 2023, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/bedroom-environment
(8) American Academy of Pediatrics. (2018, November 12). Exercise and sleep: How to help your child reap the benefits. HealthyChildren.org. Retrieved April 22, 2023, from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/fitness/Pages/Exercise-and-Sleep.aspx
(9) Mindell, J. A., & Williamson, A. A. (2018). Benefits of a bedtime routine in young children: Sleep, development, and beyond. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 40, 93-108. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2017.10.007

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