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Up to Date Advice on Melatonin Use for Children

Monday, November 13th 2023 10:00am 4 min read
Dr. Jessica Peatross dr.jess.md @drjessmd

Hospitalist & top functional MD who gets to the root cause. Stealth infection & environmental toxicity keynote speaker.

When the time for sleep arrives, what parents truly desire is for their children to peacefully drift into slumber. The wish isn’t just for the children to obtain the necessary rest, but also for the parents to find some repose themselves! Thus, it’s no surprise that when youngsters struggle to fall asleep, a multitude of parents turn to melatonin. However, recent advisories about melatonin have cast doubts on this practice.

What exactly is melatonin?

Melatonin stands as a hormone that the body generates to regulate sleep patterns. It is available over-the-counter as a sleep aid. The concept seems straightforward – by supplying the body with more of the sleep-inducing hormone, achieving sleep should be easier, right? In reality, this isn’t always the case; the impact of extra melatonin is often minimal or even negligible for many individuals. Nevertheless, some people, including certain children, do experience its benefits.

Over the last couple of decades, the usage of melatonin supplements has witnessed a notable surge. It ranks as the second most popular “natural” product administered to children by parents, following multivitamins.

Guidance on melatonin supplements for children

In situations where a large number of individuals engage in an activity, complications can arise. This holds true for the realm of melatonin use among children, where incidents of excessive intake have been frequently reported. Although melatonin overdoses can lead to symptoms such as heightened drowsiness, headaches, queasiness, or restlessness, it’s a relief that these occurrences are seldom hazardous. Nevertheless, the notion of over-the-counter melatonin being entirely risk-free is inaccurate. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) has recently taken a step to address this by releasing a health advisory replete with cautions regarding its usage.

Over-the-counter melatonin is categorized as a dietary supplement. This classification means it isn’t subjected to the same regulatory oversight by the FDA as over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or diphenhydramine. Consequently, there’s a lack of supervision over the contents of the melatonin products parents purchase.

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