Melatonin has been investigated under several research studies, however there are very few studies that are based on children. Some studies that are conducted on a few children, yielded that it is a safe way of promoting sleep in kids. Most of the studies are based on kids who suffers from neurological disorders. Autistic children and those with ADHD have difficulty falling asleep and in such conditions melatonin can be very helpful. Melatonin works because the production of this hormone is less and sometimes totally absent in kids that suffer ADHD, autistism and visually impaired. Most doctors and sleep specialists do not prescribe melatonin pills for healthy children because there have been little research about the long term side effects of melatonin on healthy children.
Using melatonin for children appears to be safe as long as the frequency of use for melatonin is kept to no more than twice a week and the dosage is 0.5 mg or less. Additional research with melatonin and its effect on children will tell us if more frequent use and higher dosage is safe and effective. Children will also experience the same melatonin side effects commonly experienced by adults taking melatonin. Parents who are considering to use melatonin on their kids, should first discuss this mater with the child’s pediatrician. The pediatrician can rule out other medical conditions that cause insomnia, like breathing difficulties or behavioral conditions like attention deficit disorder. Before giving your child melatonin, you should try changing the behavior of the child so that he/she can sleep easily. You can try limiting television before bedtime or cut down caffeine.
Reference: Melatonin improves health status and sleep in children with idiopathic chronic sleep-onset insomnia: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2003.
- A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was conducted in a Dutch sleep center, involving 62 children, 6 to 12 years of age, who suffered more than 1 year from idiopathic chronic sleep-onset insomnia. Patients received either 5 mg melatonin or placebo at 7 pm. Melatonin treatment significantly advanced sleep onset by 57 minutes, sleep offset by 9 minutes, and melatonin onset by 82 minutes, and decreased sleep latency by 17 minutes.
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