Parents: Should melatonin be part of your child’s nightly routine?

Melatonin, a hormone produced naturally by the body, is gaining popularity as a sleep aid for children. But should parents incorporate it into their nightly routine [1]?

It regulates sleep-wake cycles, signaling the body that it’s time to sleep. It’s naturally produced by the brain’s pineal gland, with levels rising in the evening and falling in the morning.

Nowadays, many children struggle with sleep issues, whether due to screen time, stress or irregular schedules [2]. As a result, parents are turning to melatonin supplements to help their kids fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

While melatonin can be effective in promoting sleep, experts emphasize caution. 

Short-term use under medical supervision is generally safe, but long-term effects on children’s developing bodies remain unclear. Concerns also exist about potential impacts on puberty and reproductive health [3].

Parents should consult healthcare professionals before giving melatonin to children. Doctors can provide personalized advice based on the child’s age, health and specific sleep issues. Before considering melatonin, they may recommend behavioral strategies or address underlying issues contributing to sleep disturbances.

Before resorting to melatonin, parents can try non-pharmacological methods to improve their child’s sleep hygiene. Establishing consistent bedtime routines, minimizing screen time before bed and creating a calm sleep environment can all promote better sleep naturally.

Children with neurodevelopmental disorders like autism may experience more significant sleep challenges. In such cases, melatonin may be part of a comprehensive treatment plan under medical guidance [4].

If melatonin is deemed appropriate, parents should follow dosing instructions carefully and opt for low doses. Regular monitoring and reassessment by healthcare providers are essential to ensure safe and effective use.

Melatonin can be a helpful tool in addressing short-term sleep issues in children, but it’s not a cure-all. Parents should approach its use cautiously, seeking guidance from healthcare professionals and prioritizing non-pharmacological interventions where possible.

With proper oversight, melatonin may support healthy sleep patterns in children, but it’s crucial to weigh the potential risks and benefits carefully.

[1] https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/health-wellness/2024/04/08/what-is-melatonin/73037579007/
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9638701/
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6362935/
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9630805/

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