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9/19/22 blog post

can I give my child melatonin?

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little girl sleeping with teddy bear iStock-1363681019

The short answer is yes, melatonin can be given to children. But it is important to know when and why a sleep aid, like melatonin, should be considered. We sat down with Samuel Dzodzomenyo, MD, sleep medicine provider at Dayton Children’s, to get the 411 on children and sleep aids, specifically melatonin.

when can melatonin be given?

There are a few instances when a sleep aid, like melatonin, should be considered.

  1. When a child is suffering from delayed sleep phase syndrome (sometimes called “night owl” syndrome) a sleep aid can be given. This is typically common in teenagers and is when the body’s internal clock doesn’t switch to night-mode. Naturally, everyone makes melatonin in their bodies, but as a child’s body begins to change and develop during puberty, the natural production of the sleep hormone, melatonin, is produced later in the night which can cause trouble falling asleep.
    1. If a child is suffering from delayed sleep phase syndrome your child’s provider may recommend a small dose of melatonin to be given about four hours before their expected bedtime. The idea is that this will not put a child to sleep but help prepare their body to switch to night-mode at the appropriate time.
  2. A short-term method to help get a child back on a routine sleep schedule. This could possibly be used after a family vacation or break from school, such as summer break, to help get a child back on their routine. Once a child starts staying up later and sleeping in, it can be difficult to fall asleep on their own. A small dose of melatonin may help get a child back on schedule.
  3. Melatonin may also be given to children with autism spectrum disorder or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children with autism or ADHD may have problems falling asleep and staying asleep, and lack of sleep tends to cause behavioral issues. A small dose of melatonin may be considered for these kiddos.

how much melatonin can be given?

This is the question that you’ve all been waiting for! Melatonin comes in many different forms and dosages. It can come in liquid, chewable gummies, dissolvable pills, capsules and more. The other thing that parents should know about melatonin dosage is that labels can be confusing and sometimes misleading. There is no standardization when it comes to the active ingredient level making it difficult to know how much melatonin you are actually getting. Look for products that are labeled with “USP Verified.” This means that the product has met safety and quality standards, contains the ingredients listed on the label and will provide guidance on appropriate dosage. Please be aware of excessively high doses that can lead to toxicity.

Before giving your child melatonin, talk to your child’s primary care provider about products and dosage. It’s also important to make sure the melatonin won’t interfere with any other medications your child may be on.

how long can I give my child melatonin?

Short-term use (anywhere from three months to two years) has proved to be safe and effective in getting children back on a sleep schedule, but there are no long-term studies of melatonin usage in kiddos.

Talk to your child’s pediatrician about dosage and when it’s an appropriate time to give melatonin. Remember that sleep aids, such as melatonin, should not be given as an alternative to a good bedtime routine. Over 50% of children with sleep problems may benefit from some type of bedtime behavior modification requiring no sleep aid.

If you have other sleep related concerns for your child, check out our online scheduling options for sleep medicine.

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Samuel Dzodzomenyo, MD

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