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Is Melatonin Safe For Kids?

By Thepickyeater @pickyeaterblog

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Sleepless nights with kids is hard, and you may find yourself drawn to using a sleep support like melatonin. But is melatonin safe for kids? In this helpful guide we will go over the safety concerns with melatonin for kids and share the best options on the market today.

Is Melatonin Safe For Kids?

One of the biggest struggles as parents can be bedtime with your kids. I know both of my kids have had trouble sleeping at various points in their lives, and it can be frustrating to deal with!

It's common for young children, and even some older children, to experience sleep issues. That might look like trouble falling asleep, waking in the middle of the night, or a combination of both. There are many reasons as to why kids might have sleep disturbances including bed wetting, sleep apnea, and various sleep disorders. However, for most little ones it is just a phase in which many parents tend to search out a sleep supplement to help. The most popular choice tends to be melatonin!

In this post we will cover the overall safety of melatonin for kids, when to use melatonin, and other alternatives to utilize when your child has trouble sleeping. Keep reading to discover the best ways to support your child's circadian clock and good sleep habits!

What Is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the pineal gland, which is part of your endocrine system ( source). It helps to regulate your ​​circadian rhythm. In the evening, your brain will release melatonin to allow your body to begin the process of winding down. When taken in supplement form, it serves as a sleep aid to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep. However, we do not know all of the long-term effects and dependency that this can cause.

How Does Melatonin Work?

As the pineal gland releases the melatonin hormone, you start to feel tired and calm. This process begins in the evening, queued by the decrease in light from the sun. Melatonin continues to be released throughout the night, helping you stay asleep and enter REM sleep.

However, nowadays there are many modern interferences that disrupt the body's sleep-wake cycle. Things such as blue light and indoor lighting can interfere with production of the melatonin hormone, tricking the brain into thinking it is still daytime. The body needs dim-light or darkness to signal to the brain that it is time for sleep. In turn, the brain begins to get to work on sending out the sleep hormone. ( source).

Is Melatonin Safe For Kids?

The overall safety of melatonin is not well known. Melatonin supplements should be safe for kids when used for occasional sleeplessness, following the right dose for their age. However, since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn't regulate over the counter dietary supplements, the information isn't super clear and there is still a lot to learn. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests that parents select a product with the USP Verified Mark for the safest use.

Overall, melatonin is not the best long term solution for better sleep since we simply do not know enough about it yet. It would be most ideal to use a natural sleeping aid with ingredients such as chamomile and lavender, paired with practicing good sleep hygiene. However, if you do plan to use melatonin, here is more of breakdown of the safety and guidelines for different ages:

Melatonin For Kids 5+

If you are going to give your child melatonin, it is most appropriate for children ages 5 and up. For the safest approach, start them off with a very low dose and see how they do. Most children will respond to the lowest dosage in a pretty short amount of time.

Remember, we don't have all the information on how melatonin might interfere with hormonal development and your child's natural levels of melatonin. If your child has been having a hard time falling asleep, talk to your child's doctor to see if short-term use of melatonin might be a good idea.

Melatonin For Toddlers

Is melatonin safe for toddlers? While you can give toddlers lower doses of melatonin, most available supplements are only deemed safe for kids 3-4 years of age and older. For children under 3, sleep problems tend to be due more so to behavioral changes ( source).

These behavioral factors are best resolved by establishing a really good bedtime routine, and remaining patient with your little one. Melatonin for a 2 year old and under is not recommended and would not be considered safe. It would best to find natural alternatives to melatonin for toddlers, which you can find more information on later in this post.

Melatonin For Babies

Melatonin should not be given to babies as their bodies are still developing their circadian rhythm and mastering their own melatonin production. If you are concerned with your baby's sleep habits, talk to their doctor to come up with the best, and safest, solution. One helpful tip is to keep your baby on a consistent sleep schedule, utilizing a sound machine and black out curtains for naps.

When Should You Use Melatonin For Your Child?

Melatonin can be used for short-term issues as a tool in helping your child regulate their internal clock. It can be effective in helping with problems such as sleep-onset insomnia, restless leg syndrome, or jet lag from travel. If they have been dealing with a ​​lack of sleep that is impacting their day to day life, talk to your pediatrician about using melatonin or melatonin alternatives for kids.

It is best to use melatonin 30 to 90 minutes before bed, giving it enough time to kick in and do its job. Every child is different so you may need to play around with the timing and see what works best.

Melatonin For Kids With ADHD

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have a more challenging time winding down at night. Additionally, they may be prescribed Methylphenidate (MHP) which can impact sleep and increase the risk of sleep disorders ( source).

According to the National Library of Medicine, melatonin was effective in improving sleep issues in over 60 percent of patients in a study done in Italy. It was reported to be well-tolerated with no negative side effects. Furthermore, the findings suggested that children with various neurodevelopmental disorders may respond best to taking extra melatonin, at 2.5mg-6mg.

Melatonin For Kids With ASD

There is some data available suggesting that short-term melatonin use can be an effective treatment for sleep disorders in children with ASD ( source).

The National Library of Medicine shares an abstract on the link between individuals with autism spectrum disorder and sleep problems. The abstract states that across 4 studies there were found to be abnormalities including lower nighttime melatonin levels. Twenty clinical studies reported improvements in sleep for those with ASD, with the use of melatonin supplementation. These individuals were shown to fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and have fewer disturbances in the night.

What Are Better Melatonin Alternatives For Kids?

There are many safe alternatives on the market to help your child fall asleep and get a quality night of rest! Many herbs, vitamins, and minerals can work to naturally calm the body without interfering with natural hormone production. One of my personal favorite melatonin alternatives for toddlers and kids is by the brand Hiya!

Hiya's Kids Bedtime Essentials vitamin supports relaxation and promotes a good night's sleep. This nightly chewable is non-habit forming, with the bonus of supporting brain health!

It's made with chamomile flower extract, GABA, L-theanine, magnesium, and vitamin B6 for a powerhouse of ingredients to aid in sleep. Plus, it is non-GMO, gluten-free, and contains no added sugar. Children ages 2 and up can safely use Hiya vitamins to help with sleep!

Shop Hiya Bedtime Essentials!

Establishing A Good Bedtime Routine

In addition to supplements, it is key to establish a healthy nighttime routine for your child. This encourages your child to naturally wind down. Kids tend to do really well with a structured routine, and doing the same things each evening signals to the brain that it is time for bed. Here are a few helpful sleep habits to implement at night:

  • No screen time before bed (limit all blue light from electronic devices)
  • No liquid 2 hours before bed (to reduce sleep interruptions)
  • Dim the lights in the home (close blinds if it is still light out)
  • Diffuse kid-friendly essential oils like lavender or vetiver
  • Consider using a white noise machine
  • Read bedtime stories or play relaxing music
  • Warm bath or shower with aromatherapy
  • Practice mindfulness exercises and relaxation techniques

What Is The Best Melatonin For Kids?

Have you tried all the natural sleep aids and established a consistent night routine, with no improvements for your child? In this case, melatonin may feel like the best option for your family. If you plan to use melatonin, I recommend the brands below for the safest melatonin for kids. Most can be purchased online or at a local health food store.

How Does A Melatonin Free Supplement Compare?

Let's take a deeper look at Hiya Bedtime Essentials, the best alternative to melatonin for kids on the market today. I love Hiya because not only does it contain 100% all natural ingredients, no added sugar, and it works! I've tested it with my own kids, and it absolutely helps them wind down more easily and fall asleep faster. And it also happens to be non-habit forming, since it doesn't contain melatonin.

Side Effects Of Melatonin In Kids

The most common side effects associated with the use of melatonin include drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, and grogginess the next day. Melatonin supplement side effects from short term use might also include:

  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Increased risk of bedwetting
  • Agitation
  • Increased alertness (in some cases, melatonin causes the opposite effect)
  • High blood pressure (can worsen blood pressure for those taking blood pressure medications)

When taking melatonin for long periods of time, you may experience a decrease in effectiveness. The main concern is the potential impact on the body's natural ability to produce this hormone itself. As you develop more of a dependency on melatonin, the natural amount of melatonin produced by the pineal gland may decrease. While it is said to be non-habit forming, you may still end up having to wean your child off of it.

Melatonin Dosage For Kids By Age

The melatonin dosage will depend on a few factors such as your child's age, but it is always best to start out with the lowest dose. You can use below for a general guideline, but it is best to follow the specific directions on the back of the supplement packaging.

Preschool (Ages 3-5): 1-2 mg

School-Aged (Ages 6-12): 1-3 mg

Adolescent (13+): 1-6 mg

When opting for a higher dose of melatonin for teens, consult with their doctor first.

Melatonin is suggested to be used for no more than 6 months, with the ideal timeframe being closer to 2-3 weeks for children. Those with ADHD and ASD are an exception to this, in which case they may benefit from longer use ( source).

Melatonin Poisoning In Kids

Over the past decade there has been a rise in melatonin-related calls, reporting accidental overconsumption. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been over 260,000 reports to poison control centers from 2012- 2021. Overall, 84% of the children were asymptomatic, while 14.7% had to be hospitalized. At Central Ohio Poison Center, there are roughly 800 children per year with unintentional melatonin ingestions, without any significant impacts or effects on their health.

While your kid is unlikely to suffer major consequences from melatonin overdoses, it is best to practice safe storage and give the proper dosages. Keep melatonin out of the reach of children and follow the directions exactly when giving a supplement to your kids.

How Do You Know If Melatonin Is Right For Your Child?

Melatonin may be right for your child if they have not been getting enough sleep to thrive during the day and struggle with issues such as sleep-onset insomnia. As a precaution, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends talking to your child's pediatrician or health care professional before starting them on melatonin. It's likely that melatonin will not be recommended for kids for long-term use, but may be used as a safe temporary addition to their evening routine.

For those reasons, Hiya Bedtime Vitamins may be a better fit overall for your child! This brand offers one of the best childrens melatonin alternatives, in a healthy chewable form.

Final Thoughts

I hope you've found this guide helpful in your search for sleep remedies for your child! Whether you are looking for the best kids melatonin or a natural sleep aid alternative, you should be able to find a safe option here!

Overall, it is important to consider the potential risks of melatonin for kids and remember that it is best for short-term use. I highly recommend creating a positive sleep routine for your little ones, incorporating herbal remedies and a calm environment. I've found Hiya to be the best sleep aid for kids, if you are looking for alternatives to melatonin. All of these additions will serve as a better long term solution to aid in your child's sleeplessness!

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