Melatonin For Kids - Uses, Side Effects And Dosage

Is Melatonin Safe For Kids

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Our bodies are apparently so much in sync with nature that when the natural world goes to rest, our body also prepares to sleep. At the end of the day, when it gets dark, a particular hormone signals the body that it is time to rest and helps you sleep.

That hormone is called melatonin. Also referred to as the sleep hormone, melatonin helps regulate the body’s clock so that we can sleep long enough and wake up refreshed. But, when the body is unable to produce enough amount of melatonin, intake of melatonin supplement may become necessary.

In this article, MomJunction tells you about melatonin for kids, its uses, dosages, and side-effects.

What Is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the pineal gland, which is located right above the middle of the brain. The hormone regulates the circadian rhythm with specific sleep-wake patterns that we follow. Also known as the sleep hormone, melatonin regulates our sleep-wake patterns based on our exposure to light and darkness.

When we are exposed to light, it passes through the retina of the eye, reaches, and activates the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) (1) in the brain’s hypothalamus. The SCN sends signals to the body to control the temperature, hormones, and others functions, which keep us awake and active or sleepy and at rest, based on our exposure to light or darkness.

The SCN thus creates a fixed pattern, like clockwork, enabling us to carry out several functions during the 24-hour cycle.

So melatonin is released into the blood at around 9pm or earlier, depending on the child’s sleep cycle. But if the pineal gland is unable to do so, the child will have difficulty sleeping. This is where melatonin supplements come into the picture.

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[ Read: How Much Sleep Do Kids Need ]

Melatonin Uses for Children

Melatonin is available as an over-the-counter (OTC) supplement to help regulate our circadian rhythm and influence our sleep-wake patterns. Supplemental melatonin is not necessary for children with occasional sleep problems or children who can fall asleep within 30 minutes after lights are out.

But if the child has attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, restless legs syndrome, or anxiety disorders that keep him awake for hours at night, melatonin can help. Sleep dysfunction can have a severe effect on the child’s health, and if your child’s sleeplessness is affecting his performance during the day, the doctor may recommend giving him melatonin supplement.

Note that melatonin only works for sleep initiation, and there is little research to show that it can help the child stay asleep (2).

However, supplements that induce sleep, may come under the radar of being safe or not.

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[ Read: Sleepwalking In Children ]

Is Melatonin Safe For Kids?

Yes, melatonin is safe as long as a trained medical professional has prescribed it and if your child takes the right dosages. Melatonin is said to have few or no side-effects in children and works well for a short-term (3). While melatonin is not toxic, animal studies show that it may lead to delayed puberty (4).

Do not use melatonin if the child (5):

  • is aged three or less
  • has situational insomnia caused due to occasional anxiety (new school year, exams, etc.)
  • has short-term insomnia due to ear pain or infection
  • has trouble sleeping due to an underlying medical or physical condition such as restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea

Helping the child’s body to produce melatonin naturally is better than using the supplements. If your child has difficulty falling asleep at night, experts recommend that you try correcting the sleep behavior before trying supplements. Changing the child’s eating habits, lifestyle, and activity levels can help them develop healthy sleeping patterns. Also, you can naturally encourage the release of this hormone with diet and bedtime snacks.

Melatonin, as a supplement is not meant for children, although some doctors find that it helps children with sleep disorders caused by conditions such as ADHD and autism spectrum disorder. Also, note that melatonin is not regulated by the FDA nor is it approved for use by adults or children (6).

However, if your doctor has recommended the drug for your child, make sure that you are carefully following the right dosage. But how much melatonin is too much or too little?

Find out about it next.

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Melatonin Dosage For Kids

Ask the doctor about the ideal dosage of melatonin for children, based on their age or weight. Children may need anywhere between 0.5mg and 6mg for sleep disorders. The exact dosage, however, will be determined based on the child’s age and weight and the sleep problem that he is having.

Like most synthetic drugs, melatonin supplement can elevate the hormone levels to a much higher degree than what is naturally produced in the body. So a typical dose of 1mg to 3mg of melatonin can increase the melatonin levels in the body up to 20 times (7).

If you plan to use the OTC melatonin supplement for your child without consulting a doctor, give him no more than 0.5mg to stay safe.

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[ Read: How To Deal With Sleep Talking In Kids ]

Melatonin Overdose

Anything over the prescribed dose can result in melatonin overdose symptoms. These include nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, headaches, drowsiness, anxiety and irritability, and joints pain.

Excess melatonin in the body can also disrupt the child’s circadian cycle.

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Side-Effects Of Melatonin

Although melatonin is a natural hormone, when taken as a supplement, it can have the following side-effects.

  • Drowsiness during the day
  • Depressed or irritable mood
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach pain
  • Vivid dreams
  • Lower body temperature

Melatonin supplements should be avoided by children with bleeding disorders, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, and seizures as it can make the symptoms worse.

Always buy your melatonin supplements from reliable sources or pharmacies and check with your doctor before using it.

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Melatonin Supplements For Children

Although not approved by the FDA, melatonin supplements and their ingredients are reviewed by the FDA for safety.

1. Zarbee’s Naturals Children’s Sleep Gummies

Zarbee’s Sleep supplement for children contains natural melatonin that can be used for occasional sleeplessness. The supplement is in the form of chewable gummies available in natural, mixed-fruit flavor. It is ideal for children aged three and above.

Zarbee's Naturals Children's Sleep Gummies

Supplement facts:

One serving (gummy) contains 1mg of melatonin

Ingredients:

Sugar, natural flavors, xylitol, natural color, citric acid, stearic acid, silicon dioxide, and Citrisweet.

Why choose it?

The supplement is free of gluten, sedative drugs, dyes, and artificial flavors. The supplement can help children with sleep disorders or occasional sleeplessness and is possibly safe for children when given in the right dosage.

You can buy the supplement here.

2. Luna Kids Sleep Aid

As the name says, this supplement is used to promote a healthy sleep cycle among children, especially teenagers. Manufactured by Nested Naturals, Luna Kids Sleep Aid is offered as chewable tablets in a tropical berry flavor.

Luna Kids Sleep Aid

Supplement facts:

One serving (tablet) contains 300 IU of vitamin D3, 10mg Lemon Balm herbal powder, 10mg Valerian root extract, 9mg stevia leaf extract, 2mg chamomile flower powder, and 0.2mg melatonin.

Ingredients:

Xylitol, magnesium stearate, stearic acid, citric acid, natural fruit punch flavor, and silicon dioxide.

Why choose it?

The Sleep Aid supplement also contains vitamins, chamomile powder, and Valerian root extract with a mild dosage of melatonin, making it more of a natural sleep inducer than a synthetic one.

You can buy the supplement here.

3. Bluebonnet Melatonin Chewable Tablets

Another children’s melatonin supplement in the market is the Bluebonnet melatonin chewable tablets in natural raspberry flavor. This supplement can occasionally be used for sleeplessness and is not habit-forming. The chewable tablets are also free of allergens including soy, fish, dairy, eggs, and gluten.

Bluebonnet Melatonin Chewable Tablets

Supplement facts:

One serving (tablet) contains 3mg melatonin.

Ingredients:

Natural raspberry flavor, natural strawberry flavor, EarthSweet juice concentrates, stearic acid, vegetable magnesium stearate

Why choose it?

This can be a good choice of sleep aid or supplement for older children, considering that one tablet contains 3mg of melatonin. Also, this is ideal if you are looking for a melatonin supplement for occasional use.

You can buy the supplement here.

4. Kal Melatonin Elderberry Dropins

The melatonin drops are suitable for younger children who are not comfortable with tablets. The fast acting liquid formula helps in increasing the melatonin levels in the body quickly, enabling the child to relax, and fall asleep soon. It is a vegetarian product and contains no allergens.

Kal Melatonin Elderberry Dropins

Supplement facts:

One serving (1ml or 15 drops) contain 0.3mg melatonin.

Ingredients:

Water, natural vegetable glycerin, citric acid, potassium sorbate, natural wild cherry, and mixed berry flavor, stevia leaf extract, and xanthan gum

[ Read: How To Get Child To Sleep In Own Bed ]

Why choose it?

The drops are a better alternative to other supplements that are available in the form of chewable tablets and capsules, which young children have difficulty consuming. Adjusting the serving size is easier with the liquid dropper that comes with this product.

You can buy the supplement here.

5. Tired Teddies Natural Sleep Aid for Kids

Tired Teddies are chewable melatonin supplements for kids and are shaped like teddy bears. They are low dose melatonin supplements specially made for children aged three or above. The supplements come in tasty bubblegum flavor, which makes eating them easy for kids.

Tired Teddies Natural Sleep Aid for Kids

Supplement facts:

One serving (tablet) contains 0.3mg melatonin, 100mg proprietary blend (chamomile flower powder, lemon balm, California poppy, lettuce and echinacea extracts)

Ingredients:

Natural flavors, dextrose, maltodextrin, citric acid, magnesium stearate, malic acid, and sucralose.

Why choose it?

Tired Teddies are considered non-habit forming, which means you can use these tablets often, without worrying that the child will depend on them. That said, it is best to use any melatonin supplement judiciously, only when it is extremely necessary.

You can buy the supplement here.

A better alternative to supplements are the foods that are rich in melatonin. These would not have side-effects.

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Foods Rich In Melatonin

If your child suffers from occasional insomnia or is having difficulty falling asleep long after the lights are out, then try including these foods in his diet.

  • Bananas
  • Pineapples
  • Oats
  • Oranges
  • Barley
  • Rice
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet corn
  • Tart cherries
  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Leafy greens

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[ Read: Insomnia In Children ]

Whether you are considering natural food supplements or synthetic melatonin supplements, make sure that the dosage does not exceed the daily recommended value, to avoid negative side-effects.

If your children have trouble sleeping at night, the first step would be to try and change their lifestyle and dietary habits. This helps in building healthy sleeping habits. But if sleeplessness is chronic or due to a medical condition, you can rely on the melatonin supplements as recommended by the doctor.

Do you have any tips on dosage of melatonin for toddlers? Share the information in our comments section.

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