You are gone all day at work, come home, get dinner ready, feed the kids, clean up the kitchen and then it’s bath time and into bed for the kids. It seems like you haven’t sat down all day and you can’t wait to get the kids in bed, finally have some peace and quiet, and time to relax and decompress from your day. That sounds like most of us right? But then suddenly, you find yourself in the throws of a bedtime battle; it’s been 45 minutes and your toddler is still awake with tantrum throwing, potty requests, running around slap-happy, and you think “I just want some time alone. “Why won’t my child just lay down and go to sleep? He doesn’t even seem tired? “
We have all be there, and chances are, if you spend most of your nights in this battle, you are desperate for a solution to make it stop.
Insert, melatonin…the sleepy hormone that your child needs to fall asleep. If adding melatonin into your nighttime routine allows your child to fall asleep quickly, why wouldn’t we want to give this? That sounds magical for every parent.
The question becomes: IS IT SAFE TO GIVE MELATONIN TO MY CHILD?
The short answer: We don’t know
Many parents have been using melatonin in their children for quite some time, and think ‘“well, it’s over-the-counter, it has to be safe, right?”. Actually, that’s not right. The problem with over-the-counter medications and supplements is that there is no regulation to be distributed and sold. There is no FDA guidelines that the manufacturing companies have to follow and therefore, what you purchase could be different per manufacturer. This is concerning for various reasons but the 2 that come to mind are:
1.) It is unclear how much melatonin you are actually giving your child despite the strength (milligrams) listed, this varies widely per maker
2.) It is unclear if there are other substances, fillers, or supplements mixed with the melatonin at time of production
Up until now, melatonin safety has not actually been studied for publication (specifically in the US)…YET
Most of the data out there surrounding melatonin in children (and trust me, I’ve done an extensive medical literature search) is mainly retrospective, meaning it looked backwards at trends in children who were using melatonin. Earlier this year, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine announced they launched a formal investigation into the safety of melatonin use in adults and children.
Will we soon find out the answer to our question? Maybe, but likely not soon.
Myths about melatonin safety:
There were some reports that routine use of melatonin in children was shown to lead to increased onset of puberty at an early age. This is currently a theory with no documented data to support it.
So back to your toddler that takes hours to fall asleep, that must be lacking melatonin…
Whenever my clients come to me, either with a toddler or preschooler, or even big kid, that can seemingly stay awake until 11 PM without batting an eye, I advise against a nightly reliance on outside sources to initiate sleep, but more so encourage digging deeper into the WHY…why is it that your kid never wants to go to sleep? Chances are, there is a reason to be found, it just may take a bit more digging.
With anything in life, especially with kids, there are caveats. There are a few caveats to when melatonin would be recommended for use in your child. Stay tuned…