Melatonin should be avoided in children unless prescribed: experts

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) urges parents to consult a medical professional before beginning to give their child melatonin, according to a recent health advisory.

« Although melatonin may be useful in the treatment of certain sleep and wake disorders, such as jet lag, there is much less evidence that it can help healthy children or adults fall asleep faster, » said Dr. M. Adeel Rishi, vice president of AASM Public Safety. Committee and a specialist in pulmonology, sleep medicine and critical care at Indiana University Health Physicians, in a press release.

« Instead of turning to melatonin, parents should focus on encouraging their children to develop good sleep habits, » he added.

These sleep habits include « setting a regular bedtime and wake-up time, having a bedtime routine, and limiting screen time near bedtime. »

Our body naturally produces the hormone melatonin to regulate our sleep, according to health advice.

It is available as an over-the-counter drug and often advertised as a sleep aid – but there « is little evidence that taking it as a supplement is effective in treating insomnia in healthy children », according to the academy of Sleep, headquartered in Darien, Illinois.

Melatonin is under less scrutiny because it is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration as a “dietary supplement” — and research has found that the melatonin content of supplements is not uniform, according to the press release.

A 2017 study from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine looked at the melatonin content of about 30 supplements. It found that over 71% of supplements failed to meet label claims.

The study revealed the greatest variability in melatonin content in chewable tablets, which is the form most used in children.

This study « found that the actual content of these supplements was highly inaccurate, » said Dr. Baljinder S. Sidhu, pulmonologist and sleep specialist, co-owner of the Pacific Coast Critical Care Group in Southern California.

« While not a big deal for adults, it could have a significant impact on young children, » he said.

He advises the use of melatonin with caution.

« One of the most surprising facts I share with my patients is that over-the-counter melatonin is not tightly regulated, » Sidhu added.

Pediatric melatonin ingestions reported annually to U.S. poison control centers increased by 530% between 2012 and 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Instead of giving their children melatonin, parents should focus on encouraging good sleep habits, an expert says.

“The availability of melatonin in the form of gummies or chewable tablets makes it more tempting to give it to children and more likely to overdose,” Rishi added in the press release.

« Often, behavioral interventions other than medication are successful in treating insomnia in children, » he added.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine shares the following important tips.

1. Melatonin should be kept out of reach of children.

2. Parents should discuss the subject with a medical professional before starting treatment.

3. Parents should know that « many sleep problems can be better managed by changing schedules, habits, or behaviors rather than by taking melatonin. »

If parents are going to give their child melatonin, the Sleep Academy recommends verifying that the product bears the USP Verified mark for safety reasons.

« Melatonin is never a first-line treatment in children, » Sidhu told Fox News Digital.

« Insomnia is not uncommon in children as they develop after the age of 2, » he added.

« This bedtime resistance can be difficult to manage and even has a diagnosis we call ‘boundary-setting insomnia’, which can usually be managed with bedtime routines. »

He reminds people that while melatonin can be used for certain sleep disorders, such as ADHD and other chronic conditions that affect sleep as well as autism, it should always be recommended and managed by a doctor. first.


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