Melatonin for kids is growing in popularity as an aid to restful sleep. But what is it, and is it safe? We take a look at the evidence.
Melatonin for kids has become a hot topic.
And trying to find clear information about whether it’s safe to use as a sleep aid can be difficult.
So if you’ve been scouring the internet and are more confused than ever, you’ve come to the right place.
We’re going to explore what we know — and what we don’t — about this complex topic.
In this article: 📝
- What is melatonin?
- Is it ok to give melatonin to a child?
- How much melatonin can a child take?
- Can you give your child melatonin every night?
- Melatonin for kids: the bottom line
What is melatonin?
Everyone’s body produces melatonin naturally.
It’s a hormone made by an organ called the pineal gland, and it helps us get to sleep.
When it’s dark, more melatonin is released, telling us it’s time to hit the hay.
When light levels increase, melatonin levels drop, and we feel more awake.
So it’s not surprising that the idea of using synthetic melatonin as a sleep aid has taken off.
And that’s included giving it to children who are struggling to nod off.
But is melatonin safe for kids? We’ll take you through it.
Is it ok to give melatonin to a child?
The simple answer is that nobody knows for sure. In 2021, scientists reviewed all the available evidence on melatonin for kids.
They found that there had been no studies in the US on the effects of melatonin in children who didn’t have other issues like ADHD or autism.
So we don’t know how effective it is, nor what the long-term impacts might be.
It can have some side effects, though.
These include increased bedwetting, headaches, moodiness, and feeling groggy in the mornings.
Some ongoing research on melatonin’s effect on animals is raising questions about whether it could affect puberty.
But there aren’t any studies on humans yet that would tell us whether that’s really a problem.
How much melatonin can a child take?
There’s no agreed standard melatonin dosage for kids of different ages.
And the lack of regulation in the US means the amount of melatonin in different products varies widely.
A 2017 study of 31 supplements found they contained anything from a fifth of the amount of melatonin they claimed on the label to almost five times as much.
All this makes answering the question of how much melatonin for kids is the right amount very difficult.
And it means it’s really important to talk it through with your doctor before making any decisions.
If your doctor does recommend melatonin, look for products labeled “USP.”
That means they’ve been verified as containing the same ingredients, in the same quantities, as are on the label.
Is 5 mg of melatonin too much for a 2-year-old?
Melatonin isn’t recommended for children under three years old.
At this age, difficulties in falling asleep almost always relate to behavior, not biology.
And you won’t have to worry about the right dose or unwanted side effects.
Can you give your child melatonin every night?
There are no standard guidelines on how frequently children should be given melatonin, nor for how long.
When it comes to helping your little one get a good night’s rest, behavioral interventions are usually a better bet.
That means a regular bedtime, no caffeine, and keeping them away from melatonin-depleting electronic screens before bedtime.
Melatonin for kids: the bottom line
With the exception of children with autism and ADHD, we just don’t know much about synthetic melatonin for kids.
If your little one is having trouble sleeping, a good bedtime routine is a great place to start.
But if that’s just not working, talk to your doctor.
They’ll be able to investigate the cause of the problem and recommend options to address it.