Your daughter has been lacking sleep for a while and is evidently affecting her performance in school. You’ve tried to help her establish consistent bedtime, but it has borne no fruit. You’ve even become sleep-deprived, tending to her insomnia.
You are not alone. The National Institutes of Health estimates that lack of sleep is a problem affecting up to seventy-five percent of school-aged children. The mood and ability to learn of your child can greatly be affected by lack of sleep. It also a risk factor of obesity. This is why melatonin is an immediate tool for parents who want to make their children have a sound sleep. However, there are some safety concerns you need to consider before you proceed with melatonin on your child. This article explains such safety issues of supplementing kids with melatonin.
What Is Melatonin?
That is a question you may want to ask yourself first and obtain the appropriate answer. Simply put, melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland situated in your brain. It is most commonly referred to as the sleeping hormone. Over the counter at pharmacies and drug stores, you will find melatonin, which is a synthesized form of melatonin hormone. This hormone is particularly produced to help you fall asleep. Darkness stimulates its release, and that’s why it is normally released in the evening. As the night becomes old and the light of the day sets in, its release is largely inhibited. Apart from regulating wake and sleep time, this hormone plays other roles, such as the regulation of cortisol levels, body temperature, blood pressure, and boosting the immune system.
Available synthetic melatonin produces the same effects as that of your brain’s melatonin. It can induce sleep (hypnotic effect) if taken in large doses, about 5 mg prior to bedtime. It can also modify your body’s circadian rhythms to help you fall asleep earlier (chronobiotic effects)if taken in smaller doses, about 0.5 mg, earlier in the evening. For your child who is struggling to stay asleep, a bedtime dose will do better. Synthetic melatonin also cannot inhibit the natural production of melatonin from your brain. It is worth mentioning that some synthetic melatonin brands contain too much or less melatonin, different from what is listed on the label. For this reason, you may need to purchase pharmaceutically graded melatonin as it effects are reliable and consistent, which are only found online. Additionally, other pharmaceutical products marketed as “non-sleep” may contain melatonin. A good example is nighttime cough syrup. Other sleep problems that prompt people to take melatonin include jet lag, circadian rhythm disorders, delayed sleep phase syndrome, insomnia, and sleep disorders related to mental health.
Can Melatonin Help Your Child Fall Asleep?
This is a worry of any loving parent – if melatonin’s sleep-inducing effects can help their child fall asleep. Several published studies have attested to that. Synthetic melatonin can work best in children with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and other neurodevelopmental conditions that may affect their sleep. Children with neurodevelopmental conditions may need to use melatonin for a long time to bring circadian rhythm in effect, as opposed to short-term use effective for bedtime problems. It is worth mentioning that melatonin cannot help with difficulty staying asleep as its level only peaks in the blood for up to 2 hours after taking it. To help children with night awakenings, it will be best if you use extended-release melatonin instead of immediate-release version.
Your child may have trouble falling and staying asleep due to many reasons, such as restless leg syndrome (the urge to move the legs at bedtime), anxiety, or getting out the bed too early. It would be helpful if you had your child reviewed and assessed by a pediatrician before you proceed with melatonin. If a conclusion has been reached that truly warrants melatonin use on your child, then it should not be the sole solution. The medication should be taken alongside other behavioral interventions to effectively help with a sleep problem. These may include praising the child for staying in bed and withholding temporarily the bedtime to rhyme with the actual sleep time. You can also pay attention to a regular bedtime and wake time for one week. What’s the point here? Melatonin works better with healthy sleep practices. Playing with the or staying on the phone won’t help your child.
It is also worth mentioning that melatonin should not be administered to children who are healthy and developing especially, under three years. Having trouble falling and staying asleep in children in this age bracket is virtually behavioral in nature. Teenagers with delayed sleep phase – a circadian rhythm disorder can benefit from a treatment program that involves the use of melatonin. In the delayed sleep phase, a person falls asleep and wakes up later than normal, always three hours or more, which greatly affects their normal daily activities. It is best managed by gradual adjustment of sleep and limiting light exposure in the evening, as well as increasing bedroom light in the morning. Never forget that melatonin is also part of the management.
Is Melatonin Safe For My Child?
Studies conducted on the safety of melatonin have shown that it is safe for kids with no side effects, especially for short-term use. The recorded side effects of short-term use are minor and include nightmares, bedwetting, nausea, vomiting, headaches, grogginess, especially in the morning, dizziness, and mood swings. These symptoms often disappear with discontinued use of the drug. Ongoing animal studies suggest that melatonin may affect the production of hormones associated with puberty. Noteworthy, health professionals are not sure about the long-term side effects of melatonin due to lack of evidence and they, therefore, don’t often recommend it for sleep problems in children.
Melatonin or sleeping hormone, is a hormone that is released from the brain to regulate sleep and wake cycle. Produced much in the evening and less early in the morning, melatonin helps you fall and stay asleep. If your child has difficulties sleeping, you may need to use synthetic melatonin alongside other behavioral interventions. Bedwetting and mood changes are among the few minor side effects of melatonin.