Alarming Trend: Nearly Half of Children Use Melatonin for Sleep

Insomnia has no age limit. Going to sleep can be a big struggle not only for adults but also for kids. Today, almost half of school-age children and preteens take melatonin to help them sleep, and some parents regularly give their preschool-aged children the supplement.

This is quite concerning, as the CU Boulder research team points out that more information is available about the items' safety and effectiveness since the Food and Drug Administration must fully regulate dietary supplements.

This is quite concerning, as the Univerity of Colorado Boulder research team points out that the Food and Drug Administration must fully regulate dietary supplements and that more information is needed about the items' safety and effectiveness.

We hope this paper raises awareness for parents and clinicians, and sounds the alarm for the scientific community.

- Lauren Hartstein, lead author

She clarifies that they are not arguing that melatonin is inherently bad for kids. However, much more research is required before we can confidently declare that long-term use is safe for children.

The pineal gland naturally produces melatonin, which tells the body when it's time to sleep and controls the circadian rhythm, the 24-hour physiological cycle.

The hormone is regarded as a medication in many nations and may only be obtained with a prescription.

However, melatonin that has been chemically produced or sourced from animals is sold as a dietary supplement over-the-counter in the United States and is becoming more and more accessible in kid-friendly candies.

Melatonin Use Increase in Children

Hartstein saw a substantial increase in parents disclosing that their otherwise healthy child used melatonin regularly in 2022.

Only 1.3% of American parents said their kids used melatonin in 2017 and 2018.

Hartstein and colleagues polled over one thousand parents to determine the current prevalence of usage in the first half of 2023.

Of the kids aged five to nine, 18.5% had taken melatonin over the last 30 days. For preteens ages 10 to 13, that number rose to 19.4%. Around 6% of preschoolers aged one to four had taken melatonin in the preceding month.

The median duration of melatonin usage among preschoolers was one year. It had been used for median measures of 18 and 21 months, respectively, by grade students and preteens.

The dose increased with age, with preteens receiving up to 10 mg and toddlers receiving anything from 0.25 to 2 mg.

In an April investigation, scientists examined 25 gummy melatonin products and discovered that 22 had melatonin concentrations different from the label.

One had a label that stated the sum more than three times. One had absolutely none. Furthermore, it has been discovered that many melatonin tablets include other unsettling ingredients, such as serotonin.

The authors claim that between 2012 and 2021, there was a 530% rise in poison control center complaints of melatonin intake, primarily from children under the age of five.

Over 94% were inadvertent, and 85% showed no symptoms.

Melatonin, according to co-author Julie Boergers of Brown University, can be a helpful temporary treatment when given under a doctor's supervision, especially for young people with autism or severe sleep disorders.

"But it is almost never a first-line treatment," shared Boergers.

She continues, saying that even if it's usually well accepted, we should always use caution when administering any form of drug or supplement to a developing body.

According to Hartstein, giving children early exposure to melatonin may also have the unintended consequence of suggesting that taking a pill is the solution if you have problems falling asleep.

Hartstein concludes: "If this many kids are taking melatonin, that suggests there are a lot of underlying sleep issues out there that need to be addressed. Addressing the symptom doesn't necessarily address the cause."


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