According to an estimate, approximately 75 percent of the school-going children are unable to get sufficient amount of sleep every day.
This is a concerning issue for parents as a lack of sleep may affect the child’s mood and the ability through which they learn new stuff and pay attention to things.
This is why some of the parents go for melatonin, a hormone which is used as a popular sleep aid. This hormone is effective and has been considered as a safe way to induce sleep in adults.
The question that arises here is whether melatonin is safe for children as well. Keep reading to know what melatonin is and whether children can take this supplement safely.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone that the pineal gland of your brain produces. It is often called the sleep hormone, mainly because it helps your body prepare for bed. This effect is accomplished by setting the circadian rhythm of your body which is also known as the internal clock.
The levels of melatonin usually rise in the evening. This allows your body to detect that it is almost time for bed. In contrast, the levels of this hormone start falling only a few hours before you wake up.
Interestingly enough, this hormone is also considered to play important role in other functions in addition to sleep. It can maintain blood pressure, control the body temperature, modulate the immune function, and keeps a check on the cortisol levels of the body.
In most of the areas in the United States, melatonin can be availed over the counter at different drug stores and food stores.
Melatonin is usually involved in the regulation of sleep and getting rid of sleep-related disorders such as:
- Jet lag
- Delayed sleep phase syndrome
- Sleep disorders which are related to the mental health
- Disorders of the circadian rhythm
However, in other parts of the world, such as New Zealand, Australia, and other European countries, it is not easy to obtain melatonin. You need to present a prescription to get it from medical stores.
Can Melatonin Help Children Fall Asleep?
A lot of parents wonder if melatonin supplements can help their children get over their sleep-related problems and help them get a peaceful sleep.
A great deal of evidence supports the use of melatonin in children for sleep.
This is particularly true for children suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, and several other neurological conditions which may alter their ability to sleep.
For example, a study involving 35 children suffering from autism found that the use of melatonin supplements aided them in falling asleep faster. It also made them sleep for the longer duration of time.
In a similar manner, a review of studies analyzing 13 different research articles found that children suffering from neurological disorders fell asleep approximately 29 minutes faster and for 48 minutes longer when they took melatonin.
Similar effects have been reported by studies in healthy kids as well as teenagers who were having trouble falling asleep. However, it is to be remembered that sleep problems usually have complex structures and can be caused due to a number of factors.
For example, the use of light-emitting devices late at night can reduce the production of melatonin in individuals using them. If this is the case, merely limiting the use of technology just before bed can help resolve various sleep issues.
In some other cases, an underlying health condition yet to be diagnosed might be why your child fails to fall asleep or stay asleep for a sufficient amount of time.
Therefore, it is better to get an advice from your doctor just before giving a sleep supplement to your child. The doctor will carry out a deep investigation in order to get to the root of the problem.
Is Melatonin Safe for Children?
Most of the studies have shown that the use of melatonin for a short period of time is safe for kids as it produces little to no side effects.
RELATED: Top Proven Benefits Of Sunlight
However, in some children, certain symptoms such as headaches, nausea, excessive sweating, bed wetting, dizziness, stomach pains, morning grogginess, and more.
At the moment, health professionals are not sure about the side effects of melatonin in the long run. This is because there is not enough research done in this regard. Therefore, a lot of doctors hesitate in prescribing melatonin supplements for children.
It is also important to discuss here that melatonin supplements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be used by children.
It is impossible to judge if melatonin is completely safe for children until long-term studies are performed in this regard.
If your child is struggling to fall or stay asleep, the best way to sort out this problem is by booking an appointment with your doctor.
What are Other Ways to Help Your Kid Fall Asleep?
Sometimes, the sleep issues encountered by your kids may be resolved without the use of drugs and supplements including melatonin. This is because these sleeping problems occur when kids engage in certain activities that keep them up awake during late hours.
If your child suffers from sleep problems and finds it difficult to sleep at night, consider following these tips:
- Set a proper bedtime: Make your child go to bed and wake up at the same time on a daily basis. As it can help in the training your child’s internal clock and makes it easier to fall asleep and wake up at the set time.
- Limit the use of technology before bed: Electronic devices such as phones and TVs are said to emit light that may disrupt the production of melatonin. Preventing the children from using these devices 1-2 hours before going to sleep helps them sleep faster.
- Relax them: Excessive stress can induce alertness, so help your child relax before their bedtime as it will help them fall asleep.
- Maintain low temperature: Some kids may find it hard to fall asleep when the environment is too warm. So, maintain a standard or a bit cool room temperature to induce sleep.
- Get enough sunlight: Make sure that your children get plenty of sunlight during the day as it will help resolve most of the sleep issues.
The Final Verdict
Good sleep is essential for a healthy life. Most of the short-term studies have shown that melatonin is safe for usage in children with sleeping problems as it only causes little to no side effects.
However, the long-term use of melatonin in children to address sleep problems is not well-documented. For this reason, it may not be the best option to give your kids melatonin unless your doctor recommends it.
In a lot of cases, poor sleep is caused by certain bad habits of the children before bedtime, such as the use of light-emitting devices. Limiting the use of these devices can help go to sleep faster.
Some other trips that you may follow in order to induce sleep in your children near bedtime include setting a proper bedtime, helping your kids relax before going to bed, the creation of a proper bedtime routine, and ensuring that the room they sleep in is cool and receives sufficient amount of sunlight.