Melatonin use in kids and teens has garnered significant attention as a potential solution to address sleep disturbances and related disorders in this age group. As adolescents undergo various physiological and lifestyle changes, disruptions in their natural sleep-wake cycles can lead to sleep difficulties, affecting their overall well-being and cognitive performance. However, while melatonin supplements are commonly used as a non-prescription sleep aid, it is essential to understand the potential risks, benefits, and appropriate guidelines for its use in children and teenagers to ensure safe and effective treatment.

What is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the pineal gland in the brain. It plays a crucial role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm). It’s the hormone that brings on that tired, sleepy feeling telling you it’s time to sleep. Through this natural process, people establish and maintain consistent sleep patterns. Melatonin is also a commonly used supplement to aid with sleep problems and jet lag.

Best Practices for Melatonin Use in Kids and Teens

First Talk to a Healthcare Provider

Before starting melatonin speak to your child’s healthcare provider. They will be able to provide a plan based on your child’s medical history and be able to advise if any current medications they are on do not work well with a melatonin supplement.

Don't Use Melatonin Long-Term

Melatonin can be a great asset in establishing healthy bedtime routines that promote a good night’s sleep. This is ideal in cases like first establishing a routine or trying to get back into a routine after a vacation. However, due to the lack of research and understanding about the long-term effects of melatonin in children and teens, melatonin should never be considered a long-term solution.

Start at the Lowest Dose

Like with any over-the-counter medication, start with the lowest dose before deciding on a higher dose amount. This also helps avoid melatonin poisoning, which we dive into more detail about below. 

Select a Certified Pharmaceutical-Grade Melatonin Product

Because melatonin is not a FDA-approved product, its production isn’t regulated. This leads to the chance that a dose is higher than what is listed on the label. Groups like Consumer Lab, NSF International, or UL and U.S. Pharmacopeia certify products deemed accurate to the label after review. This testing covers the dosage amount in the tablets/ pills and ensuring all ingredients are listed on the label. 

Establish a Sleep-Promoting Bedtime Routine

Melatonin can help aid in getting a bedtime routine established. Be sure to incorporate sleep-promoting factors into your child’s bedtime routine. Stopping screentime 1-2 hours before bed, engaging in relaxing activities, taking a bath, and getting the bedroom nice and cool are a few examples. You can read more about what we have to say about sleep schedules and other sleep problems below. 

Know the Risks and How to Avoid Them

There are a few risk factors concerning melatonin use that are important for parents to know. First is that melatonin is not an FDA-approved product and there is little to no research on the long-term effects of using melatonin in kids and teens. This is why it’s important to only give your children and teens melatonin as a temporary solution. This also plays a role in the next risk: melatonin poisoning.

Melatonin poisoning cases have risen exponentially in the past five years. This is mostly due to the inaccurate amount of medicine in each tablet compared to what the label says. This occurs because this is not an FDA-approved product and therefore production isn’t regulated. Chewing tablets were shown to be the most inaccurate through testing which, unfortunately, are the types of supplements commonly given to children. Avoid this risk by selecting a certified pharmaceutical-grade melatonin product and always start with the lowest dose.

Lastly, there are a few known side effects from using melatonin. Be sure to review and understand these symptoms before choosing to give your child melatonin.

  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Agitation
  • Dizziness
  • Increased urination at night or bed-wetting

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For more information about other ways to ensure a good night’s rest – check out one of our other sleep-focused blogs.

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Melatonin Use in Kids and Teens Conclusion

In conclusion, melatonin can be a helpful tool in managing sleep issues in children and teenagers when used appropriately and under the guidance of healthcare professionals. It can aid in regulating their sleep-wake cycles and improve the overall quality of sleep. However, it is crucial for parents and caregivers to exercise caution, ensuring that melatonin supplements are used as a short-term solution and not as a substitute for addressing underlying sleep-related concerns. Additionally, more research is needed to better understand the long-term effects of melatonin use in this age group, emphasizing the importance of a balanced approach to promoting healthy sleep habits in kids and teens.

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Sleep Medicine, Nemours, Very Well Health, Healthline