- In certain cases, melatonin supplements can help children with ongoing sleep problems get a better rest.
- Sleep experts stress that changing your child’s bedtime habits can have more lasting effects.
- If you do offer melatonin, check with your doctor first and buy a product that has been third-party tested.
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the brain at night to help sleep. Your body makes it naturally, but you can also find it in supplement form. If Sandman refuses to show up, he might reach for melatonin supplements.
But if your child also has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, could he benefit from a child-sized dose of melatonin?
Experts generally believe that small doses of melatonin (about 0.5 milligrams (mg) to 1 mg) are safe for children with sleep problems.
But melatonin shouldn’t necessarily be the first thing you get, says Shelby Harris, a psychologist certified in behavioral sleep medicine and director of sleep health at Sleepopolis.
In some cases, adjusting your child’s bedroom routine may be more helpful than going to Target for a bottle of children’s melatoning gum.
Learn more about how melatonin works, if it helps your child, and what you can do to improve your child’s sleep.
How does melatonin work?
According to Harris, sleep experts usually recommend melatonin to people who can sleep through the night, but not necessarily on the schedule they need.
For example, if you have jet lag after a cross-country flight and can’t sleep at night, taking a melatonin supplement may help your circadian rhythm adjust to your new time zone.
Beyond jet lag, melatonin can also help with:
When Can Melatonin Help Children?
According to Harris, most research on melatonin has focused on adult participants, and there is very limited research on melatonin in the general child population.
Still, according to Dr. David Berger, board-certified pediatrician and founder of Wholistic Pediatrics, sleep performance in children on a neurodiverse spectrum, including those with conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism Some evidence suggests that melatonin may help improve the problem. & family care.
Evidence linking low melatonin levels to autism suggests that melatonin supplements may improve sleep in autism, especially in children. They also found that it may help improve other symptoms commonly seen in autism, such as:
Melatonin may also improve nighttime sleep in children with ADHD. One study of her 74 children with ADHD found that melatonin helped reduce sleep-wake disturbances and shortened the time it took to fall asleep in 61% of the study group.
Existing research has focused primarily on children with neurodevelopmental disorders or sleep disorders, so experts still don’t know exactly how melatonin affects children who don’t have these conditions.
Are there any safety concerns?
Beyond the lack of research on melatonin for children, you don’t always know how much melatonin you’re giving them.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates melatonin as a dietary supplement. This means that melatonin products do not have to adhere to the same strict labeling standards as pharmaceuticals. As a result, some children’s melatonin products may contain more or less melatonin than the label suggests.
One small study found that some melatonin supplements contained less than half the melatonin listed on the label. Some products even contained small amounts of serotonin. It is a prescription-only substance commonly found in antidepressants.
Plus, melatoning gummies for kids look and taste a lot like candy.
How to use melatonin safely
If your child’s pediatrician has given the green light to try melatonin, remember:
- Find the COA. Berger recommends looking for melatonin products with a Certificate of Analysis (COA) from a third-party lab. Test the substance. That way you know the labels on your bottles and bags are accurate.
- Follow your pediatrician’s recommended dosage. Some experts recommend starting with a low dose of 1mg or less. We recommend checking dosage with your child’s pediatrician.
- Time it properly: It takes time for melatonin to work, so it’s not ideal to give it right after you put your baby to bed. .
- Combine melatonin with your bedtime routine. Experts strongly recommend using melatonin alongside good sleep hygiene practices.
Tips to Help Your Child Sleep Without Melatonin
Harris recommends trying to improve your child’s sleep without supplements before offering melatonin.
To establish good bedtime habits and restore your child’s circadian rhythm, you can:
Create a bedtime routine
To help your child develop the right mindset for sleep, create an easy-to-follow nighttime routine.
For example, you can have them put on their pajamas, brush their teeth, and submerge themselves in bedtime stories.
Berger recommends sticking to the same sleep schedule every day if possible.
cut screen time
Evidence shows that blue light from tablets, smartphones, and TV screens is associated with decreased melatonin production. Harris recommends his 2 hours.
Instead, help your child relax with non-screen activities like reading a book, solving a puzzle, or playing a board game.
If your child still naps, try to schedule them at the same time each day.
Experts recommend napping before 2 or 3 pm so your kids don’t get in the way of going to bed.
go outside in the morning
When your child first wakes up, Berger recommends going outside to feel the sunlight.
Sunlight can help shift your child’s body clock, so they are more awake during the day and sleepier at night.
Avoid sodas and candy before bed
Foods and drinks containing caffeine, such as sodas and chocolate bars, can interfere with sleep quality.
That’s why experts recommend cutting caffeine at least six hours before bed. Others say that children should not consume caffeine.
Instead, offer hungry children a nighttime snack that is good for sleep, such as a glass of yogurt or a handful of nuts.
Melatonin supplements may help some children fall asleep when tweaking their bedtime routines makes no difference. Associated melatonin supplements with improved sleep in children on the neurodiverse spectrum, including children.
However, there are not many long-term studies on how melatonin affects children.
After all, melatonin isn’t a magic sleeping pill and it won’t work for everyone. We encourage you to explore other solutions that may help you get some sleep.