If you’re one of those parents who have trouble putting your kid to sleep, you have certainly searched the internet for ways to help your child. So, you’ve probably come across numerous different pieces of advice on this topic ranging from giving your child a warm glass of milk to melatonin supplements.
As you might know, melatonin is a hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle, but you might ask yourself whether giving melatonin supplements to your child for better sleep is safe for them. In order to help you with this question and make your choice easier, we wrote this article, so sit back and read on.
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin, also known as the sleep hormone, is a hormone that is naturally secreted in the pineal gland in the center of the human brain. Basically, melatonin helps your sleep-wake cycle, also known as the circadian rhythm; it tells your body when to eat, go to sleep, and wake up. Melatonin is usually produced in the evening as a sign that it’s bedtime. When your sleep-wake cycle gets disturbed due to a sleeping disorder (such as insomnia), anxiety, and jet lag, it can impact your melatonin levels.
Melatonin supplements can be produced naturally from animal sources or developed synthetically. Over-the-counter melatonin is a synthetically produced version that mimics the effects of our natural melatonin, showing our body and brain that it’s time to close your eyes, so you’ll be able to relax and fall asleep easily. Melatonin supplements come in patches, liquid forms, gummies, and pills.
Although melatonin supplements are quite popular as a sleep aid, since they aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you may ask yourself whether they are safe or not.
Can Melatonin Help Children Fall Asleep?
If your kid has trouble falling asleep at night or getting enough sleep, melatonin dietary supplements are a possible short-term solution for helping your kid achieve a good night’s sleep.
As many as 70% of kids that suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder experience sleep issues. These kids frequently feel excessive drowsiness during the day as a result of insomnia or trouble falling asleep in the evening. Some studies show that kids with ADHD who use melatonin as a sleep aid experience better sleep. One particular study revealed a reduction in insomnia, resulting in children falling asleep approximately 16 minutes earlier.
Between 50% and 80% of kids that suffer from autism spectrum disorders experience sleep disorders. Some studies of melatonin use in kids with autism spectrum disorders have revealed that sleep quality and sleep onset have been improved. Some of these kids experience better behavior during the day, and there are several to no melatonin side effects.
What Is the Correct Melatonin Dosage for Kids?
Always consult with a pediatric specialist before giving your kid melatonin. They will help you to determine whether the melatonin supplement is necessary or not. The pediatricians can also give you advice for the timing and the melatonin dosage. Most will recommend beginning with a lower dose, typically, approximately 1 to 2 milligrams for children ages 4 to 6, 2 to 3 milligrams for ages 6 to 12, 5 milligrams for teenagers, and a dosage within the range of 0.5-10.0 milligrams for children with special needs.
Since melatonin can mess up your kid’s sleep schedules when it’s taken at the wrong time, you should never give melatonin to your kid in the middle of the night. The recommended time for giving the melatonin to your kid is 30-60 minutes before bedtime. Additionally, while melatonin supplements can help with difficulties falling asleep, they cannot help any kid stay asleep.
Side Effects of Melatonin
Maybe melatonin is safe for kids in the short term, but melatonin can cause some side effects in kids, and it’s best to talk to your pediatrician before giving melatonin supplements to your kid.
Some kids that take melatonin can experience mild side effects, including dizziness, headaches, and bedwetting. These symptoms will go away after your kid stops the treatment with melatonin.
Here are some other more severe side effects of melatonin that your kid might experience:
- Pain in the abdomen
- Excessive sweating
- Drowsiness and sleepiness
- Vision problems
- Daytime laziness.
Keep in mind that there isn’t enough research into the safety of long-term melatonin use in kids.
Tips to Help Your Kid Fall Asleep Without Melatonin
Sometimes sleep problems can be resolved with no use of medications or dietary supplements, such as melatonin, due to the fact that often sleep issues are caused if kids are engaged in activities that can keep them up late at night. Here are some tips that can help your kid fall asleep easier:
- Regular bedtime. Waking up and going to bed at approximately the same time every day can train your kid’s internal clock. This can make waking up and falling asleep at the same time much easier.
- Limit the use of electronic devices before bed. Tech devices, including smartphones and television, emit blue light that interferes with melatonin production. Therefore, limit using them one or two hours before bed, and your kid will fall asleep much easier.
- Make a bedtime routine. Bedtime routines are perfect for toddlers because they can help them relax, so their bodies know it’s time to go to bed.
- Help your kid relax. Excessive stress and anxiety can provoke alertness, so helping your kid relax before bedtime can enable them to fall asleep easier.
- Keep the temperature in the room cooler. Some children cannot get a good night’s rest if they’re too hot. Standard or a little bit cooler temperature of the room is perfect.
- Hot bath before bedtime. Taking a hot bath approximately one or two hours before bedtime can help your kid relax and achieve better and deeper sleep quality.
A Few Words Before You Go…
While melatonin can look like a cure-all for your kid’s sleeping problems, consult with their pediatrician first in order to rule out any possible underlying medical conditions. If you use melatonin responsibly, it has few side effects and risks, and it can be quite helpful for kids with sleep issues. However, using melatonin supplements in combination with some changes in your kid’s lifestyle and behavioral modifications can lead to the best results.