If your child is having trouble sleeping, giving them melatonin supplements might cross your mind. In the past ten years, children taking melatonin have increased by over 530 percent. It can seem like a natural way to help your little one doze off. But there are many caveats to child melatonin usage, so here are the top five things to know.
1. Melatonin is a natural hormone, as well as an over-the-counter supplement.
Melatonin is a natural brain chemical that tells your body it's time for sleep. Many know melatonin as an over-the-counter supplement designed to give an extra boost toward shut-eye.
The Food and Drug Administration regulates melatonin as a dietary supplement, and adult insomniacs swear by it. The supplement mimics the brain’s response to darkness and helps your body get back into the internal sleep rhythm.
2. Melatonin should not be the first response to an insomniac child.
While it may seem convenient, giving kids melatonin should never be the first thing you try. Identifying and correcting the sleep problem first is critical.
“A good bedtime routine is super important,” said Dr. Miranda Edwards, Internal Medicine and Pediatric physician at St. Mary’s Medical Center. “Such as having a very consistent bedtime, lower light, and a particular order that you do things so that their bodies recognize it’s time to calm down.”
She emphasized that child screen time is a massive part of this. Parents should limit their kid’s time before bed in front of the TV, computer, tablet, and other devices.
3. Melatonin dosage and time using it varies per child.
If you give your child melatonin, understand that their dosage will be lower than yours. While giving your child the same melatonin gummy as you may be tempting, kids need much less to have an effect. They should also take it for temporary amounts of time while their routine is re-established.
Discuss the exact dosage for children with their pediatrician, as it depends on their age and size.
4. Children can suffer from melatonin side effects, including melatonin poisoning.
Like any supplement or medication, melatonin will produce side effects. Side effects can include drowsiness, trouble waking up in the morning, and increased urine production. Mention all side effects to their pediatrician.
During the pandemic, there was a significant increase in child melatonin poisoning. As kids transitioned to online school and stayed home, their sleep patterns changed. More parents gave their kids melatonin without doctoral supervision, which resulted in Poison Control calls.
Most of the time, melatonin is not life-threatening. But if you are suspicious that your child has intentionally or unintentionally overdosed on melatonin, take them to the emergency room immediately.
5. Melatonin is safe for children but under physician supervision.
If you haven’t guessed it, melatonin can be safe for children. But their intake must be monitored by a physician. This can help avoid melatonin pitfalls, such as dosing too much, dosing for too long, or using it as a replacement for routine.
Physicians like Dr. Edwards are here to help understand your child’s sleeping habits and get them back to normal snoozing in no time.