Why You Shouldn’t Give Melatonin to Your Children

When your children get restless at bedtime, it may be tempting to turn to those “natural” melatonin supplements that line the medicine shelves at your local market.

But a new advisory from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) suggests that parents should abstain from giving their children melatonin or any related sleep supplements unless given express permission by a physician. Recent studies have shown that melatonin-related calls to poison control centers have increased significantly in the past decade, indicating a worrying trend of tired parents who have no other recourse than to pop a gummy into Junior’s mouth every night–possibly at the child’s risk.

Even with a doctor’s blessing, however, I personally think it’s in the average kid’s best interest to develop a nightly routine that allows ample time for their active brains to settle down; of course, I don’t count children with more complex issues. At such an undeveloped stage in their growth, I (and actual child care experts) consider it irresponsible to rely on pills and supplements to settle them into bed–especially if one has the resources and time to develop a schedule that benefits both you and child, and especially after hearing such warnings from the AASM. But if you needed more evidence on why giving melatonin to children isn’t such a great idea, there is more evidence that shows the harms of long-term use. I’ll let the experts share why.

“One study showed potential side effects of long-term melatonin use could be precocious puberty on discontinuation of the melatonin,” says Linda Belstein, a pediatric nurse at Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio who spoke to Healthline. “Pharmacotherapy is more likely to benefit children with complex medical, psychiatric, and neurodevelopmental issues.”

Additionally, having melatonin around the house can–and has–led to curious infants ingesting the stuff in potentially lethal amounts. 

“Because melatonin, and other over-the-counter medications, are often considered harmless common household items – especially relative to prescriptions like opioids – they are usually stored in areas accessible to young children,” said Milton Cohen, president, and chief executive officer of Safe Rx. “But, if accidentally ingested – especially in amounts more than the specified dosage – by infants or toddlers, they can be extremely dangerous.”

Back on the topic of establishing a night routine for your child, the benefits are numerous. They actually help your child learn to settle down and prepare for sleep, which results in better sleep quality and a habit of following a routine–which will be especially helpful for them as they age. According to the Sleep Foundation, “…these benefits translate to better readiness for school, as well as better academic performance and social skills. By contrast, those who don’t follow a bedtime routine in childhood are more likely to have sleep problems and be overweight during adolescence.” 
According to the site, some ways to develop a night routine include providing a nutritious snack, reading a book, a shared activity such as singing a song together, and a talk about their day. To learn more about how to develop a night routine for a child as an alternative to melatonin, visit the page here.

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