Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all parents had a simple little pill they could just give their children and they’d fall sound asleep? Bring up that you’re having trouble getting your child asleep and you may just be handed just that, a pill. Melatonin supplements are non-prescription and can be found in just about any department store in the nation for under 10 bucks. These synthetic doppelgangers for the body’s naturally produced sleep hormone are gaining popularity among parents as a highly recommended way to get your kids to go right to bed, but if it sounds too good to be true it usually is isn’t it?
What are the known short term risks of melatonin use?
Even melatonin in appropriate doses (.3 mg a day) for occasional use is shown to cause adverse reactions in some users including:
-Day time drowsiness or fatigue
-Depression or mood swings
-Abdominal pain or cramping
-Nausea or digestional upset
-Severe nightmares or vivid dreams
-Hormonal imbalances that may affect reproductive health in both sexes and cause breast growth in men
These reactions naturally occur at a higher frequency with higher doses or more regular use.
What are the known long term risks of melatonin use?
Studies on the long term effects of melatonin use in humans haven’t even been done. Caution is generally suggested as long term hormonal regulation in other cases has been shown to have negative effects.
Does melatonin have different effects on children?
Some studies done on animals found that when given melatonin at a young age overall life span was decreased. There have been short term, small group studies done on autistic and blind children who have irregular naturally occurring melatonin levels that did not show adverse effects other than those outlined above. Most of these studies were done on teens. No studies have been done on children with regular melatonin levels or toddlers and infants. In either case, no long term studies have been done on the effects of melatonin on children. Almost all pediatricians do not recommend melatonin for children under 3. Most pediatricians do not recommend melatonin for kids under 10. In all cases despite melatonin being an over the counter dietary supplement a doctor should be consulted if you are considering medicating your child with melatonin.
So, is melatonin safe for kids?
That’s the big question. Personally a glance at the possible short term side effects of melatonin use would cause me as a parent to not use melatonin or suggest its use to other parents, no matter how tired those parents may be. The majority of children that don’t go to sleep when their parents want do not have melatonin issues, meaning they have normal melatonin production making melatonin supplementation an unnecessary medication. However that is an opinion based answer. Factually there has not been sufficient research to answer whether or not melatonin is safe for kids. The question for parents then is, does not knowing for sure if melatonin is unsafe for kids make it safe?
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Side effects of melatonin:
Melatonin for children: