What Do Melatonin Supplements Do
People produce the hormone melatonin in the evening as a signal to the body that its time to go to sleep; higher levels of melatonin make people feel tired and ready for bed. If you give your child melatonin at the right time during the evening, it may make it easier for them to fall asleep.
Melatonin doesnt help everyone fall asleep, although many people do find it useful, says
Chee Chun Tan, M.D., pediatric sleep medicine specialist at K. Hovnanian Childrens Hospital at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.
Some research suggests that it may also be helpful for kids with ADHD or autism who struggle with sleep when used for short periods. However, long-term usage of melatonin supplements as sleep aids hasnt been well-studied in children.
Because melatonin is a type of dietary supplement, its production isnt regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. This means that any melatonin gummies that you purchase may contain more or less of the active ingredient than the label says. Always do research first and make sure to purchase supplements from reputable manufacturers that are lab-tested. Consult your childs doctor for advice. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, U.S. consumers should look for the USP Verified mark, which indicates that the products makeup meets the requirements of the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, an independent global testing organization.
What Does Melatonin Do
Research has shown that taking melatonin supplements is especially helpful for people who have specific sleep problems. It’s useful in resetting your body from jet lag. It can help people who have trouble falling asleep if they are anxious about something like surgery.
Melatonin can help make children feel sleepier before bedtime. This helps them wind down and go to sleep earlier than they would without the supplement.
Melatonin is especially helpful in helping kids with specific health or behavior conditions, including:
Children who have these issues tend to have trouble falling asleep on their own. Melatonin supplements help them get to sleep more easily.
Is Melatonin Safe For Kids A Look At The Evidence
Unfortunately, poor sleep can affect a childs mood and ability to pay attention and learn. It has also been linked to health issues such as childhood obesity .
This is why some parents consider giving their children melatonin, a hormone and popular sleep aid.
Though its considered safe for adults, you may wonder if your child can safely take melatonin.
This article explains whether kids can safely take melatonin supplements.
Melatonin is a hormone produced by your brains pineal gland.
Often referred to as the sleep hormone, it helps your body get ready for bed by setting your internal clock, also called the circadian rhythm .
Melatonin levels rise in the evening, which lets your body know its time to head to bed. Conversely, melatonin levels start to fall a few hours before its time to wake up.
Interestingly, this hormone plays a role in other functions besides sleep. It helps regulate your blood pressure, body temperature, cortisol levels and immune function (
In the US, melatonin is available over-the-counter at many drug and health food stores.
People take melatonin to cope with a variety of sleep-related issues, such as:
- Sleep disorders related to mental health
- Delayed sleep phase syndrome
- Circadian rhythm disorders
However, in other parts of the world, including Australia, New Zealand and many European countries, melatonin is only available with a prescription.
Many parents wonder if melatonin supplements can help their child fall asleep.
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Melatonin Wont Solve Every Sleep Problem
Melatonin is a hormone naturally released by our brains to help us fall asleep. Melatonin supplements can be helpful when that release doesnt happen at the desired timejet lag is an obvious example.
Carl Cummings, a paediatrician in Montreal who wrote a paper for the Canadian Paediatric Society entitled Melatonin for the management of sleep disorders in children and adolescents, explains that melatonin could be helpful in kids who have chronic insomnia because of a problem with sleep initiation, which means the child is going to bed at an appropriate time, but it is taking longer than 30 minutes for him to fall asleep. Often, this issue can be solved with good bedtime routines and parents consistently setting appropriate limits around sleep. But in some cases, these strategies wont work, which is where melatonin comes in.
What makes melatonin so compelling is that it will help most kids fall asleep. The problem is, it wont help a kid who is procrastinating bedtime learn good sleep habits; it wont stop your daughter from waking up with nightmares; it wont fix your babys colic; and it probably wont stop your kid from hopping out of bed ready to start the day at 4:30 a.m. If you want a real solution to those common kids sleep problems, youll have to look further than a pill.
What Is Melatonin And How Does It Work
Melatonin is a hormone that your brain produces in response to darkness. It helps with the timing of your circadian rhythms and with sleep. Being exposed to light at night can block melatonin production.
Research suggests that melatonin plays other important roles in the body beyond sleep. However, these effects are not fully understood.
Melatonin dietary supplements can be made from animals or microorganisms, but most often theyâre made synthetically. The information below is about melatonin dietary supplements.
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Is Melatonin Safe For Kids Theres Little Research On That
Because melatonin is a hormone, there are concerns about how taking it might affect a childs growth and development, particularly during puberty. When you look through the literature, all of the feedback that you get is very positive. It seems to be safe, says Cummings. The problem is, if you look at the number of studies and the number of subjects in the studies, they are actually quite small numbers. So its reassuring, but only to a point.
How Should Melatonin Be Taken
For best results, it is recommended to take melatonin regularly and at the same time every night. It is ideal to take it one hour before bedtime. Additionally, it is advisable to follow a sleep routine with regular bedtime and wake hours. Remember that the treatment objective is to get the brain to adopt a consistent wake and sleep cycle. Be consistent and your sleep cycle will be too!
Melatonin supplements should be used on an ad hoc and occasional basis. If you take this type of product for more than 30 consecutive days, you should see a doctor for a more thorough medical analysis.
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What Are The Health Benefits Of Taking Melatonin
Melatonin supplements may help with certain conditions, such as jet lag, delayed sleep-wake phase disorder, some sleep disorders in children, and anxiety before and after surgery.
Jet lag affects people when they travel by air across multiple time zones. With jet lag, you may not feel well overall and you may have disturbed sleep, daytime tiredness, impaired functioning, and digestive problems.
Research suggests that melatonin supplements may help with jet lag. This is based on medium-sized reviews from 2010 and 2014.
- Four studies that included a total of 142 travelers showed that melatonin may be better than a placebo in reducing overall symptoms of jet lag after eastward flights. Another study of 234 travelers on eastward flights looked at only sleep quality and found low-quality evidence that melatonin may be better than placebo for improving sleep quality.
- Two studies that included a total of 90 travelers showed that melatonin may be better than a placebo in reducing symptoms of jet lag after westward flights.
Delayed sleep-wake phase disorder
People with DSWPD have trouble falling asleep at the usual times and waking up in the morning. They typically have difficulty getting to sleep before 2 to 6 a.m. and would prefer to wake up between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Some sleep disorders in children
Because of these uncertainties, itâs best to work with a health care provider if youâre considering giving a child melatonin for sleep problems.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Proper sleep hygiene can also improve sleep quality and quantity. Research shows that good sleep hygiene alone can eliminate pediatric insomnia in 50% of the instances in which melatonin is suggested for treatment. The combination of sleep hygiene and melatonin is more effective at improving sleep in children than melatonin alone.
A bedtime routine at a consistent time each night provides comfort to help your child fall asleep. Your bedtime routine can include soothing activities such as taking a bath and reading a book or singing lullabies.
Experts also recommend that parents limit their childrens use of electronics in the hours before bedtime. The blue light from devices, such as phones, tablets, TVs, and video game consoles, can delay the onset of natural melatonin release.
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Clinical Contributors To This Story
Chee Chun Tan, M.D. contributes to topics such as Pediatric Pulmonology, Pediatric Sleep Medicine.
Pakkay Ngai, M.D. contributes to topics such as Sleep Medicine.
When your child has trouble falling asleep, you may wonder if a kid-friendly version of melatonin supplements would be safe to offer on occasion. Melatonin may help some kids fall asleep more quickly when its used properly, and it comes in gummy varieties that may appeal to children, but you shouldnt dispense it like candy.
Its ideal to teach kids to fall asleep on their own, rather than relying on sleep aids, including dietary supplements like melatonin, says Pakkay Ngai, M.D., pediatric sleep medicine specialist at Joseph M. Sanzari Childrens Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center. Teaching healthy sleep habits can be tricky, but the rewards pay off for a lifetime.
Melatonin Could Help Kids With Adhd And Autism
Kids with attention disorders and autism commonly develop sleep problems that can be helped with melatonin. Additionally, medication used to treat ADHD can lead to difficulty falling asleep. That was the case for Jackie Botman,* whose son has ADHD. The eight-year-olds medication was keeping him up until 9:30 or laterhe was wired and couldnt settle down. He was resistant to calming down and having quiet time. He became chronically tired, says Botman, who lives in Toronto. Now her son takes a ;5 mg dose of melatonin when hes brushing his teeth, then gets into bed and falls asleep in a reasonable amount of time.
Although Cummings agrees that melatonin can help kids with ADHD or autism, he says the downside is that theres a high relapse rate: Once you take your kid off melatonin, they are almost guaranteed to go back to having difficulty sleeping. It sets up a situation where those kids, to function well in life and in school, may need to use the melatonin on a longer-term basis, says Cummings.
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Can Melatonin Help Mychild Sleep
There is good scientific evidence melatonin can shorten thetime to fall asleep in children with insomnia, including children with ADHD,autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. While melatonin can be aneffective short-term solution to address bedtime problems, children withneurodevelopmental disorders may benefit from longer-term use in some cases. Itshould be noted that the immediate release formulation does not help withdifficulty staying asleep . There is some evidence to suggest that extended-releasemelatonin may help with night awakenings in children, but there are far fewerstudies to support this use, and the extended release formulations require theability to swallow capsules.
There are many reasons why children may have trouble fallingasleep: anxiety, restless legs symptoms or a too-earlybedtime are just a few. Before considering melatonin, have your pediatricianconduct a thorough evaluation for other potential causes.
In general, melatonin should not be given to healthy,typically developing children under age 3, as difficulties falling and stayingasleep in these children are almost always behavioral in nature.
Is It Safe To Take Melatonin
For melatonin supplements, particularly at doses higher than what the body normally produces, thereâs not enough information yet about possible side effects to have a clear picture of overall safety. Short-term use of melatonin supplements appears to be safe for most people, but information on the long-term safety of supplementing with melatonin is lacking.
Also keep in mind:
Interactions with medicines
- As with all dietary supplements, people who are taking medicine should consult their health care providers before using melatonin. In particular, people with epilepsy and those taking blood thinner medications need to be under medical supervision when taking melatonin supplements.
Possible allergic reaction risk
Safety concerns for pregnant and breastfeeding women
Safety concerns for older people
Melatonin is regulated as a dietary supplement
Products may not contain whatâs listed on the label
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Does Food Contain Melatonin
A study published in Food and Nutrition Research notes that certain food products do contain various amounts of melatonin as measured by immunological and chromatographic laboratory techniques. How consumption of these various foods might affect endogenous production sleep or was not evaluated:
- Wine, beer
- Cows milk
Research finds that melatonin synthesis depends upon availability of the essential amino acid tryptophan, a needed component of the diet. If intake of tryptophan is severely restricted, synthesis of melatonin is significantly reduced in humans.
In the Nurses Health Study, no link was found between the consumption of various nutrients, such as folate, vitamin B6 and zinc and increased urinary excretion.
Diets rich in vegetables, fruits and grain products will contain considerable levels of dietary melatonin. The overall effect of dietary consumption on nighttime levels of melatonin is very limited. Melatonin production is primarily driven by the effects of light and darkness and by age, declining as we get older.
Before Taking This Medicine
Do not use melatonin if you are allergic to it.
Before using this medication, talk to your healthcare provider. You may not be able to use this medication if you have certain medical conditions, such as:
- a bleeding or blood clotting disorder such as hemophilia
- taking a blood thinner like warfarin
- high or low blood pressure
- epilepsy or other seizure disorder
- if you are using any medicine to prevent organ transplant rejection
- an autoimmune condition
- using other sedatives or tranquilizers
It is not known whether this medication will harm an unborn baby. Do not use this product without medical advice if you are pregnant.
High doses of this medicine may affect ovulation, making it difficult for you to get pregnant.
It is not known whether melatonin passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Do not use this product without medical advice if you are breast-feeding a baby.
Do not give any herbal/health supplement to a child without medical advice.
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Why Should Melatonin Supplements Be Taken
Sleep is one of the most influential factors on how our day unfolds. Oftentimes, the hectic pace of daily life does not allow us to get restorative sleep. Thus, this has generated a growing interest for melatonin in people who have difficulty falling asleep.
There are many causes of insomnia and of other sleep disorders. Consequently, the possible solutions are numerous. Studies have revealed certain benefits to taking melatonin as supplements in people who are affected by sleep-wake cycle disorders, for instance:
- delayed sleep phase syndrome
- circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders
- jetlag-related fatigue
Melatonin supplements are available at the pharmacy without a prescription. Before purchasing them, it is recommended that you speak to your pharmacist, who can help clarify the situation and determine if its use could be helpful to you. Additionally, your pharmacist can inform you about the different options available, help you make a choice, and to use the product safely.
When Should Melatoninnot Be Used
As mentioned above, children lose sleep for many reasons.Avoid melatonin:
- if the insomnia is situational
- if the insomnia is short-term
- if the insomnia is due to an underlying physicalcause
- if your child is younger than 3
Melatonin should never substitute for healthy sleeppractices: a regular, age-appropriate and consistent bedtime and bedtimeroutine, no caffeine, and no electronics or screens before bedtime.
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Melatonin Gummies For Kids
If these techniques arent working for you, you may want to consider a melatonin supplement. Since pills arent the best option for most kids, there are melatonin gummies available that are flavored and soft to chew. There are some brands that offer flavors and packaging that appeal to children.
When choosing which kind of melatonin gummies to buy, there are a couple of things you want to look at.
What Is In Melatonin Gummies
Melatonin is a hormone thats naturally produced by the pineal gland, which is located in our brains. It plays a crucial role in regulating our circadian rhythms or sleep-wake cycles, and is the hormone that is responsible for making us drowsy at nighttime.
Melatonin levels in the blood are at the lowest in the morning and reach their peak at night. Production is influenced by light and darkness, letting our bodies know to release this sleep hormone when the sun goes down, and to stop its release when the sun rises.
Here are factors that can get in the way of the bodys ability to know when to release melatonin, which can result in difficulty trying to sleep:
Age. Melatonin production changes as we age, and the time of night that melatonin is released changes with age as well.
Technology. Exposure to blue light from screens of smartphones, laptops, television, etc. can all slow down the release of melatonin.
Nightlights. When the body senses light, it is tricked into thinking it needs to suppress the release of melatonin. This can happen often in children that use nightlights in their rooms to sleep.
If you or your child is having trouble sleeping, the best thing to do is to try and correct the problem naturally. This includes following proper sleep hygiene. Some things you can try include eliminating technology before bed, not using a nightlight, and use techniques to reduce stress before bed.
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