Melatonin (Over) Use

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 ready our bodies for sleep. It is key to our body’s sleep-wake cycles. Darkness helps our bodies to start producing melatonin, while light causes that production to stop. This is one of the reasons why we should sleep is 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 mean that these supplements are harmless. The melatonin you buy at the store (liquid, gummies, pills, etc) is NOT FULLY REGULATED BY THE FDA and therefore it is difficult to know appropriate dosing. This can lead to complications or even overdosing. 

Did you know that evidence shows that the amount of melatonin in a pill/bottle can differ from the label by up to 5 times? That means 3mg could actually be 15mg!

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 start 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. Reading, playing calm games, drawing, etc are all good choices. This can include turning 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, 7 nights a week. Also, make sure they wake around the same time each day. This helps the body regulate it’s 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. 
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