How Safe Is Melatonin For Children?

Is there a specific melatonin for children? Because my 9-year-old seems to be having problems with sleeping. I know she is still up hours after I send her to bed because I can hear her fumbling around. And when I go over to check, she pretends to sleep, and she is very grumpy each morning when I try to wake her up for school. I am wondering if it would be safe to give her melatonin supplements and what the appropriate dose would be.

Melatonin is a human hormone produced by the pineal gland. It is a powerful antioxidant and plays an important role in the regulation of the sleep/wake cycle. Synthetic versions of melatonin are now sold over the counter as diet supplements for the management of sleep disturbances and for several other purposes including cancer treatment. Melatonin is well-tolerated among adult users with very few cases of adverse reactions and with no reports of life threatening side effects so far.

Several studies have been conducted from the early 90s to the present to determine whether melatonin for children would bring about favorable results in the treatment of childhood sleep disorders. Sleep disturbances are relatively prevalent among school-age children. The most common sleep disorders in children are usually associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), visual impairment, and neurologic injury.

Studies showed that administration of melatonin to children suffering from sleep disturbances resulted in earlier sleep onset, fewer nighttime awakenings, increased sleep duration and improved daytime behavior. About 90% of all subjects exhibited positive results and very few cases of adverse reactions were reported.

The side effects commonly observed among the study group include headache, drowsiness, increased heart palpitations, decreased body temperature and depression. The doses employed varied from 0.5 mg to 20 mg depending on the age of the child and the severity of the sleep disorder. But the most common doses ranged from 2 mg to 5 mg and were administered in the evening about an hour before bedtime.

However, these studies were not enough to provide adequate evidence that melatonin for children really does work and safe for long term use. In fact, melatonin has been found to worsen the symptoms of asthma and could even result to seizures. It is also not advisable for children with autoimmune disorders. The studies were conducted on a limited number of subjects with neurodevelopmental illnesses wherein melatonin deficiency could be an issue, so it wouldn’t be surprising that the results were overwhelming.

Currently, there is no specific melatonin for children. Its effective dose has not yet been determined and further randomized studies are yet to be conducted to ensure its efficacy and safety. However, in cases wherein traditional management has failed to improve sleep, this could be a good adjunct therapy especially among children suffering from neurodevelopmental disabilities.

But parents should bear in mind that melatonin is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and saying that, you might want to think twice about giving the next dose to your kid. There is no such thing as “melatonin for children” as of yet. And since we are talking about safety, let me just add that synthetic forms of melatonin could be a little safer than bovine-derived ones, but still that does not make it advisable for use in children.

What Are The Most Common Melatonin Side Effects?

One of my friends is using melatonin as a sleeping aid and she seems to be doing well on it. Since I am on shifting work schedules, sleeping is really a problem especially in the daytime. I am occasionally taking over-the-counter sleeping pills but I have heard that they got nasty side effects, so I am thinking of switching to melatonin supplements. Does it really help with sleeping? Are there melatonin side effects that I should know about?

Melatonin is currently known for its antioxidant and anti-aging effects as well as an immune system booster. But it is also fast becoming a household name as a natural sleeping aid. People clearly prefer “the natural” over “the pharmaceutical” because of the lower risk for side effects.

Can you overdose on melatonin?

How common is a melatonin overdose?  You can od on melatonin –

Melatonin is a hormone, specifically a growth hormone, secreted by the pineal gland, a small endocrine gland located at the center of the brain. Melatonin serves a lot of functions. Aside from being a growth hormone, it regulates our biological clocks, the reproductive hormones in females, prevents cell damage from free radicals, and strengthens the immune system. Not bad, huh?

So, from the above-mentioned melatonin functions, it is not surprising why melatonin food supplements and other products have been sprouting like mushrooms, especially melatonin sleeping aids. But a lot of studies have been conducted for possible melatonin side effects. Being natural does not always mean safe.

Yes, there are melatonin side effects but they are way milder than pharmaceutical sleeping aids’. Most common complaint of melatonin users are vivid dreams and nightmares and drowsiness. Extreme daytime drowsiness would indicate overdose and should be promptly reported to the doctor. Disruption of circadian rhythm and reduced sex drive are also possible with prolonged use of melatonin. Side effects like depression, confusion, headaches, dizziness, irritability, and stomach upset with nausea and vomiting are also not uncommon. But another melatonin side effect which may be helpful rather than harmful is its ability to lower blood pressure.

Major melatonin side effects especially with excessive doses are increased human growth hormone (HGH) and decreased luteinizing hormone levels in the blood. So, when you are planning to have blood tests done and is taking melatonin supplements at the time, inform your physician about it. It has contraceptive effects and should be contraindicated for pregnant moms and those who are planning to have a baby. Allergic reactions may also be encountered with melatonin use but this rarely happens. If itchiness, swelling of the lips, tongue or face, and difficulty breathing is observed while on melatonin supplements, seek medical attention immediately.

Looking at the melatonin side effects versus its uses, the latter clearly outnumbers the previous. But whatever it is we are taking, we should be vigilant and be on the lookout for its untoward effects. The main reason why we take supplements and medications is to make our lives better. If we chose to abuse it or disregard the doctor’s orders or go beyond what is considered safe, then we will suffer the consequences no matter how “natural” it may be.

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