A recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows a 503% increase in pediatric melatonin ingestions from 2012 to 2021.
Yes, you read that correctly up 503% since 2012.
Melatonin is a naturally produced hormone in our bodies that helps calm and prepare us for sleep. It is key to our body’s sleep-wake cycles. Darkness helps our bodies produce melatonin while light causes that production to stop. This is one of the reasons why we should sleep in super dark environments! Melatonin helps regulate our circadian rhythm the internal clock that controls our body’s cycles.
Melatonin supplements can be purchased over-the-counter and often claim to be natural. However, this does not guarantee that these supplements are harmless. The melatonin you buy at the store, in the form of liquid, gummies, pills, and so on, is not fully regulated by the FDA and therefore it is difficult to dose appropriately. This can lead to complications or even overdosing.
If your child is having trouble with sleep, melatonin supplements seem like a quick fix. However, giving your child melatonin does not address the bigger issue. Why is your child having a hard time sleeping? Melatonin supplements may mask the actual issues. It is more important to get to the root of the sleep difficulties.
There are a few steps you should take before you take supplements.
First and foremost, speak with your pediatrician before you administer any medication.
Next: Develop Healthy Sleep Habits
- Behavioral Changes: Start with a calm routine about an hour before bedtime. For example, reading, playing calm games, and drawing are all good choices. You might want to turn the lights down throughout your home and turning screens off (or at the very least monitoring what your child is watching on the screen…intense video games or scary T.V. shows are not conducive to a good night sleep) one hour before bedtime.
- Schedule changes: Make sure your child goes to bed at the same time each night, seven nights a week. Also, make sure they wake around the same time each day. This helps the body regulate its sleep cycles.
- Make sure your child is able to self-soothe. This means that you are able say good night and leave the room while your child is still awake. If your child needs you to sit with them to fall asleep, there are lots of ways to help them gain the confidence to be able to fall asleep independently.