A recent study from the Centre For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has raised concerns about the six-fold escalation in the usage of melatonin for kids in the post-Covid 19 world. In fact, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine categorically issued a health advisory about its increased use, especially as chewable tablets amongst kids. Now – do not be scared! Paediatricians globally prescribe this for kids.
Has your kid been troubling you lately? Well, perhaps your friends or other parents have suggested a melatonin tablet to aid your baby’s sleep. Before you take the plunge, we advise you to read up on some details. Also, behavioural changes in the sleep patterns of your child are crucial.
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How beneficial is melatonin for kids?
As you already know, melatonin is a hormone that regulates the circadian clock and promotes quality sleep. Released by the brain in the evening and stimulated by darkness, this regulates the sleep cycle and, by extension, the body’s cortisol levels and blood pressure.
The synthetic format of this hormone (mainly prescribed by paediatricians) mimics similar qualities of the natural one. Due to this, when doctors recommend melatonin for kids, they check its ‘hypnotic’ (sleep-inducing) and ‘chronobiotic’ (changing circadian rhythms) effects and prescribe the dose accordingly.
Kids are prescribed this since –
1. Scientific evidence proves its use as a bedtime reliever. Doctors prescribe this medicine to those kids who have problems sleeping at night – medically termed as ‘delayed sleep phase’.
2. Children who suffer from neurodevelopmental disorders, ADHD, autism and insomnia – have been categorically administered melatonin supplements. Research from multiple domains has proved their consistent benefits.
3. For children with ‘night-awakening’ issues, a designated dosage of this supplement helps ease this issue. It is given half an hour or an hour prior to sleep (it peaks 2 hours after the dose time) for best results.
As of now, these are the primary areas where melatonin supplements (mostly chewable tablets) have been helpful for the kids. Studies are underway regarding some other critical areas and their extended usage.
Before you start the use of this supplement, consult a sleep specialist for a thorough session with your kid. Your kid could have other issues apart from circadian rhythm disorder causing a change in his or her sleep pattern.
Now that you know already how beneficial, is, melatonin for kids, especially those with issues, it is time to check out some other facets where you must be careful about using this hormonal supplement.
When to not use melatonin?
- Categorically doctors prescribe melatonin for insomniac kids. But if your kid has short-term situational insomnia (stemming from the latest anxiety issues), do not use these supplements.
- If there is some underlying cause (diagnosed and under treatment) – do not use melatonin supplements. Paediatricians, in these cases, do not generally prescribe them, and you steer clear from using the same.
- You must consult the doctor if your child is under 3 years old. But generally, melatonin supplements, in this case, are a strict no-no.
What you must know about using melatonin?
To give supplements of melatonin for kids is one of the ways to ease them from their hyperactive schedule. But a recent study showed that – different brands of melatonin supplements have a varied concentrations of melatonin within them. Therefore – you must select a product which is USP-verified.
Another critical issue you must note is that – some melatonin supplements have other components added to them. This disrupts the concentration of the additive and may affect the user negatively. Therefore – always choose ‘’pharmaceutical grade melatonin.’’
Do not make melatonin supplements a habit. When giving it to a child – start with a low dose and take consistent breaks while administering this medicine. You must treat this as a supplement and not a habitual add-on.
What about the dosage of melatonin?
Knowing the correct dosage of melatonin for kids will aid in your kids’ sleep. First – pick the correct type of supplement for your child. Gummies, chewable tablets, capsules and liquid form are the most opted modes to intake this appendage.
It is not recommended for children below 3 years of age. If your child is over 3 years, administer it 30-60 minutes before bedtime. Is your child less than 88 pounds? Then the dosage is limited to 0.5-3 mg. Is he above 88 pounds? Then you could administer 1-5 mg of the supplement.
Administer it once a day (as stated above) or as per the doctor’s opinion. Since most children respond well to the lowest dosage, start with the same first.
How long does it stay in the body?
This depends on the kid’s metabolism levels. It has been found – after administering melatonin for kids, it stays in the body for 5 hours. However – there is no strict time limit, and the additive may stay longer.
How to handle a melatonin overdose?
You must have read some disturbing news about melatonin overdose in kids or some melatonin toxicity resulting in kids being hospitalised. There is no need to worry so much, as it is not life-threatening! If handled on time – melatonin overdose can be treated.
Immediately consult your child’s paediatrician. As an alternative – you may also call the nearest poison control centre for immediate help.
From next time onwards, please be careful since these additives come in exciting gummy-like packing. Therefore kids could mistake supplements for candies.
Are there any side effects?
If you administer melatonin for kids regularly – there could be some side effects. Some of the most common ones are – early morning grogginess, spurts of dizziness, mood swings, daytime sleepiness, and bedwetting. Some researchers have also noticed a pattern of agitated behaviour in the kids.
What behavioural changes are required?
For the record – administering melatonin for kids is not the solution in the long term. One needs to bring about specific changes in the behavioural patterns of the kids. When both the supplement and the change in patterns work together, you will see notable changes.
1. Maintain a regular sleep schedule for your child. A 7-9 hours sleep schedule, minimal or no-nap times during the day and following the pattern around the week (you can make small changes for the weekend) is the key to success.
2. Keep your children away from screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime. The light emitted from the screens wakes up the brain and creates issues in the sleep routine.
3. A good diet followed by a proper exercise routine is of primary importance to have a proper sleep routine. As you already know – mushrooms, oats, milk, rice, berries, and legumes help create natural melatonin levels in the body. Green vegetables are also essential for maintaining the body’s functioning. If your child is a naughty tantrum-throwing one, you can always look up some recipes with hidden veggies to feed him the required nutrients.
4. It is very important to reduce your child’s sugar and caffeine intake, especially before bedtime. If your child is under 12 years, he must not consume caffeine (as per advice from The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry).
These are some of the critical lifestyle changes you must bring to induce melatonin for kids naturally instead of depending on appendages.
Melatonin for children works in the positive only if it is administered within control. So ensure you get proper prescriptions from the doctor and time the dosage. Also, rather than being entirely medically dependent – work on the abovementioned pattern regulations for more significant benefit in the long run.
Monalisa Mukherjee is a content writer and copywriter with close to 3 years of experience. She has written for websites like Biography Talk, Contour Cafe, He And She Fitness and Fiction Pad. She is currently associated with a noted Digital Marketing Agency and specialises in writing articles for travel, entertainment, cooking, celeb, lifestyle, tech, health, fashion and film news.