One in 5 Children Takes Melatonin Supplements for Sleep, Raises Concerns About Long-Term Safety

We receive free products to review and participate in affiliate programs. See our disclosure page for more information.

In a recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics, it was revealed that one in five school-aged children and preteens now relies on melatonin supplements to aid in falling asleep. The research, conducted by experts from the Sleep and Development Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder, surveyed approximately 1,000 parents during the first half of 2023, shedding light on the increasing prevalence of melatonin usage among children.

The study’s lead author, Lauren Hartstein, a postdoctoral fellow in the Sleep and Development Lab, emphasized that the research doesn’t conclusively assert the harm of melatonin to children. However, she stressed the need for more comprehensive studies before confidently declaring its long-term safety.

“We are not saying that melatonin is necessarily harmful to children,” Hartstein explained, as reported by CU Boulder Today. “But much more research needs to be done before we can state with confidence that it is safe for kids to be taking long-term.”

Melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles, is commonly used by adults to address sleep issues. However, the increasing prevalence of its use among children has raised concerns within the medical community. As a dietary supplement, melatonin falls outside the purview of full regulation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), adding to the complexity of evaluating its safety in children.

The surge in melatonin use among children has sparked discussions about the broader context of children’s sleep health and the potential impact on their overall well-being. Keywords such as “Children’s sleep,” “Pediatric sleep disorders,” and “Sleep hygiene for children” come to the forefront as researchers delve deeper into understanding the dynamics of pediatric sleep patterns and the factors influencing them.

While bedtime routines and sleep habits have long been recognized as crucial elements in children’s sleep health, the reliance on melatonin supplementation introduces new considerations. The study underscores the need for further exploration into “Sleep and child development,” emphasizing the intricate relationship between sleep patterns and the overall growth and well-being of children.

In the absence of clear regulatory guidelines for melatonin use in children, concerns arise about potential risks and side effects, giving rise to the importance of “Melatonin safety for children” as a critical area of research. Pediatric insomnia and sleep disturbances are also highlighted as key aspects requiring attention and exploration in light of the increasing trend in melatonin supplementation.

As discussions surrounding children’s sleep health and melatonin use continue to unfold, it becomes evident that more comprehensive research is essential. The study’s findings serve as a catalyst for increased awareness and a call to action for further investigations into the long-term impact of melatonin on the well-being of our youngest population.

Understanding Melatonin

Melatonin, an endogenous hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain, functions as the body’s circadian regulator. The main function of the sleep-wake cycle is to regulate and synchronize our biological rhythm with the external environment. This control is very sensitive to the stimuli of illumination and obscurity.

When there is no light, such in the evening and at night, the pineal gland boosts the synthesis of melatonin, which sends a signal to the body to relax and get ready for sleep. On the other hand, the presence of light, particularly natural sunshine, leads to a reduction in the generation of melatonin, which in turn enhances wakefulness and attentiveness.

Although our bodies possess an inherent capacity to generate melatonin, the increase in sleep-related problems and evolving lifestyles has resulted in the widespread use of melatonin tablets as a convenient remedy for sleep disruptions.

Melatonin Supplements: A Growing Trend

Historically, melatonin pills were often used by adults to alleviate conditions such as sleeplessness and jet lag. Nevertheless, there has been a discernible change in their use in recent years, expanding beyond the adult population to include youngsters as well.

Parents, who often encounter the difficulty of getting their children to sleep, have resorted to melatonin pills as a possible solution. The availability of these supplements without a prescription has led to their growing use in the therapy of sleep disorders in children.

This reversal in trend raises important inquiries about the safety and effectiveness of administering melatonin supplements to youngsters. Do they provide an acceptable option, and what factors should parents take into account? These inquiries emphasize the need for a more thorough analysis of the impact of melatonin on the sleep patterns of youngsters.

Is it Safe for Children?

Practicing prudence is crucial while considering the safety of melatonin supplements for youngsters. Prior to incorporating any supplement into a child’s regimen, it is crucial to get guidance from a healthcare practitioner. Although melatonin is usually considered safe, it is important to be aware of possible dangers and adverse effects, even if they are uncommon.

Consulting with Healthcare Professionals

Prior to administering melatonin pills to their children, parents should initiate a discussion with a healthcare professional. Pediatricians are able to provide individualized recommendations taking into account the child’s health, age, and unique sleep issues. This consultation facilitates the determination of the suitability of melatonin as a solution and, if applicable, the identification of the best dose.

Potential Risks and Side Effects

Although melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone, its excessive or incorrect usage might result in negative consequences. These symptoms may include daytime somnolence, cephalalgia, vertigo, or, in some instances, gastrointestinal disturbances. Parents must be aware of these possible adverse effects and closely observe their children’s reaction to melatonin administration.

Age-Appropriate Dosage Considerations

Adhering to age-appropriate dosing is crucial while utilizing melatonin in children. The ideal dose may vary depending on the child’s age, weight, and individual reaction. It is not recommended to estimate the correct dosage or use adult formulas for youngsters. Accurate dosage guarantees that children get the potential advantages of melatonin while minimizing avoidable hazards.

To summarize, while melatonin supplements may be a significant resource for addressing sleep problems in children, ensuring safety is of utmost importance. Responsible use of melatonin in children requires professional assistance, awareness of possible hazards, and careful adherence to dose instructions.

Research Insights

Although several research have examined the possible beneficial impact of melatonin on children’s sleep patterns, it is important to recognize the current limitations in our comprehension. The study of melatonin and its effects on pediatric sleep is a developing area of research, and there are other elements that need to be taken into account.

Heterogeneity in Responses

An important obstacle is the diversity in reactions among youngsters. The effectiveness of a certain approach for one kid may not necessarily provide the same outcomes for another. This heterogeneity is influenced by factors such as age, underlying health issues, and the exact form of sleep disorders. Acknowledging this variety underscores the need of tailoring melatonin use to the specific needs of each kid.

Limited Comprehensive Studies

Although there is an increasing amount of information available, there is still a lack of thorough and definitive studies about the long-term impacts, recommended doses, and possible adverse effects in children. The existing study often concentrates on certain age cohorts or ailments, resulting in knowledge gaps on the wider influence of melatonin on the pediatric demographic.

Importance of Personalized Approaches

Considering the inconsistent reactions and little information provided by existing studies, it is clear that a universal strategy to melatonin use in children is unsuitable. Customized strategies, considering the distinct attributes and requirements of every kid, should be a fundamental aspect of any choice to use melatonin supplements in a pediatric sleep management strategy.

Application in Specific Cases

Melatonin supplements have surfaced as a viable remedy for youngsters dealing with sleep difficulties, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or Autism Spectrum difficulties (ASD). Parents must comprehend the intricacies of using melatonin in these particular instances, since it is essential for effectively managing their children’s sleep.

Tackling Sleep Disorders in Pediatric Population

Children diagnosed with sleep problems sometimes have difficulties in establishing consistent sleep routines. These people may benefit from the use of melatonin tablets to regulate their sleep-wake cycles. The hormone’s capacity to communicate to the body that it is time to sleep may be especially advantageous for youngsters grappling with insomnia or erratic sleep patterns linked to certain diseases.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and the Utilization of Melatonin

Sleep-related issues are often seen in children diagnosed with ADHD. The potential benefits of melatonin in facilitating the initiation of sleep may be advantageous for these youngsters. Nevertheless, it is crucial to exercise caution while using melatonin in instances of ADHD, taking into account individual reactions and possible combinations with other drugs used to treat ADHD symptoms.

Managing Sleep in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Insomnia is common among children diagnosed with autism. Studies have investigated the use of melatonin supplements as a possible solution to tackle these difficulties. Melatonin’s soothing properties may help youngsters with ASD develop more consistent sleep routines. However, it is important to thoroughly take into account the variations in individual responses and the existence of concurrent medical disorders.

Comprehending the complexities of using melatonin in these particular instances necessitates cooperation between parents and healthcare practitioners. Pediatricians possess specialized knowledge and may provide personalized guidance, considering the distinct requirements and medical circumstances of every kid. Parents should consider melatonin supplementation as only one component of a comprehensive strategy to addressing sleep problems related to these diseases. Consistent contact with healthcare professionals guarantees that the administration of melatonin is in accordance with the child’s comprehensive treatment regimen and has a beneficial impact on their welfare.

Guidelines for Parents

Parents have a crucial role in overseeing the proper administration of melatonin supplements to regulate their children’s sleep. This role goes beyond just providing the supplement; it entails thorough teaching, attentive monitoring, and a consideration of other approaches to promote good sleep patterns.

Education on the potential advantages and disadvantages

Prior to integrating melatonin pills into a child’s regimen, parents should strive to comprehend both the prospective advantages and hazards linked to their use. One may acquire this comprehension by engaging in conversations with healthcare specialists, consulting trustworthy sources of information, and studying the material accompanying the supplements. Having knowledge of what to anticipate and being aware of possible adverse reactions enables parents to make well-informed choices.

Careful Monitoring of Effects

Upon commencing melatonin administration, it is essential for parents to diligently monitor its impact on their children. This entails monitoring changes in sleep patterns, documenting any adverse reactions, and evaluating the overall influence on the child’s welfare. Frequent contact with healthcare experts is crucial throughout this monitoring period, enabling modifications to dose or alternative strategies if necessary.

Investigating Alternative Approaches

Although melatonin supplements may be beneficial, they should not be the primary emphasis of a sleep management plan. Parents are advised to consider alternate strategies to enhance their children’s sleep, promoting a comprehensive approach. This may include implementing regular evening rituals, cultivating a serene sleep setting, and encouraging good sleep hygiene habits. Implementing dietary concerns, such as refraining from consuming stimulating meals in the hours leading up to bedtime, may also enhance the quality of sleep.

Common Misconceptions

Dispelling myths surrounding melatonin is crucial for informed decision-making, as misconceptions can lead to unnecessary concerns and misinformed choices. Let’s address some common myths and separate fact from fiction.

Myth: Melatonin is Addictive

One prevalent myth is that melatonin supplements are addictive. In reality, melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in the body, and supplementing with it does not lead to addiction. Melatonin is not a substance that creates dependency, and individuals can safely discontinue its use without experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Myth: Melatonin is a Sedative

Another misconception is that melatonin works as a sedative. While melatonin does signal the body that it’s time to sleep, it doesn’t induce drowsiness in the same way as traditional sedatives. Its role is to regulate the sleep-wake cycle, promoting a natural transition to sleep when taken at appropriate times.

Myth: Melatonin Has Immediate Effects

Some believe that melatonin works instantly upon consumption. In truth, melatonin supplements typically take some time to exert their effects. It’s not a quick-fix solution for immediate sleep induction. Consistency and adherence to recommended usage guidelines are crucial for optimal results.

Myth: Long-Term Use Has Negative Effects

There’s a misconception that long-term use of melatonin supplements can have negative effects. Current research suggests that melatonin is generally safe for short-term use, but the long-term effects are still under investigation. As with any supplement, it’s essential to use melatonin responsibly, following recommended dosages and regularly consulting with healthcare professionals.

Myth: Melatonin is Only for Jet Lag

While melatonin is commonly associated with managing jet lag, its applications go beyond that. Melatonin supplements are increasingly used for various sleep-related issues, including insomnia and sleep disorders in both adults and children. Understanding its versatility helps dispel the notion that melatonin is only suitable for specific situations.

Balancing Risks and Benefits

When parents contemplate using melatonin supplements to address their children’s sleep problems, it is crucial to acknowledge the delicate equilibrium between possible advantages and accompanying hazards. The decision-making process include evaluating the benefits of enhanced sleep in comparison to probable long-term consequences, necessitating meticulous deliberation and well-informed decisions.

Benefits of Enhanced Sleep

The main impetus for choosing melatonin supplements is often the aspiration for enhanced sleep quality. Sufficient and high-quality sleep is crucial for a child’s holistic welfare, influencing their bodily well-being, cognitive advancement, and emotional fortitude. By modulating sleep patterns, melatonin may enhance sleep quality and promote more regular sleep-wake cycles.

Possible long-term consequences

Although the short-term usage of melatonin is generally deemed harmless, the long-term consequences are still being investigated. Concerns arise over the possible effects on the natural synthesis of melatonin, the possibility of reliance, and the development of tolerance. Parents must be aware of these factors and approach the usage of melatonin with an emphasis on cautious and prudent use.

Engaging in Rational Decision-Making

In order to achieve a suitable equilibrium, parents should approach the issue of using melatonin with a dedication to making well-informed decisions. This entails:

  1. Professional Guidance: Consulting with healthcare professionals to understand the child’s specific needs, potential risks, and appropriate dosage.
  2. Monitoring and Adjusting: Vigilantly observing the child’s response to melatonin and being open to adjusting dosage or exploring alternative methods based on individual needs.
  3. Weighing Risks Against Benefits: Considering the potential benefits of improved sleep against the identified risks. This requires an ongoing evaluation of the child’s sleep patterns, overall health, and any emerging concerns.
  4. Exploring Alternatives: Being open to exploring alternative methods for improving sleep, such as establishing consistent bedtime routines, creating a sleep-conducive environment, and promoting healthy sleep hygiene practices.

Consulting with Healthcare Providers

The need of engaging in a cooperative decision-making process with healthcare practitioners, including pediatricians, cannot be overemphasized when contemplating the use of melatonin supplements for the management of children’s sleep. Pediatricians have a vital role in providing tailored guidance that is in line with the child’s well-being and promotes a comprehensive approach to managing sleep.

Professional Expertise

Pediatricians possess a significant amount of professional knowledge and skills. The professionals may evaluate the child’s general well-being, including any pre-existing medical issues, drugs, or any interactions that might affect the choice to provide melatonin. This specialized knowledge enables a thorough comprehension of the child’s distinct circumstances.

Customized guidance for specific requirements

Each kid has unique characteristics, therefore using a standardized method for sleep regulation is never successful. Pediatricians may provide customized guidance depending on the child’s age, weight, sleep habits, and preexisting medical conditions. This individualized method helps in determining the appropriateness of melatonin as an intervention and, if deemed acceptable, the most effective dose for the kid.

Comprehensive Sleep Management

In addition to considering melatonin supplements, doctors may play a role in developing a comprehensive sleep management strategy. This may include examining lifestyle variables, sleep habits, and other behavioral therapies that might supplement or perhaps substitute the need for melatonin. The objective is to systematically tackle sleep problems by considering several aspects of the child’s life.

Consistent and frequent communication to provide ongoing assistance

The collaborative process extends beyond the first consultation. Maintaining regular connection with healthcare professionals is crucial for receiving continuous assistance. This enables the observation of the child’s reaction to melatonin, modifications to the dose if necessary, and addressing any arising issues or changes in health condition. An interactive and effective interaction between parents and physicians guarantees that the sleep management strategy stays flexible and in harmony with the child’s changing requirements.

Alternatives and Lifestyle Changes

Prior to contemplating the use of melatonin supplements, parents have a variety of choices and lifestyle modifications available to them to enhance the quality of sleep in children. Consistent use of these measures may greatly enhance sleep hygiene.

Establishing Healthy Bedtime Routines

Establishing and maintaining a regular bedtime routine is a vital element in fostering good sleep habits in children. This regimen may include soothing activities like as perusing a literary work, indulging in a warm bath, or participating in tranquil play. The regularity of a schedule indicates to the youngster that it is time to relax and get ready for sleep.

Encouraging the adoption of sleep hygiene practices

Adhering to good sleep hygiene routines is crucial for achieving high-quality sleep. This entails establishing an ideal sleep setting by ensuring that the bedroom is devoid of light, noise, and maintained at a suitable temperature. Implementing restrictions on screen use before to bedtime and encouraging the practice of relaxation methods may help enhance the conditions for a favorable sleep environment.

Dietary Modifications to Enhance Sleep Quality

Specific modifications to one’s diet may have a beneficial effect on sleep quality. It is recommended to refrain from consuming coffee and sugary meals around bedtime, as they may disrupt the process of falling asleep. Alternatively, include sleep-inducing foods that are abundant in tryptophan, such as turkey and bananas, might potentially enhance the innate sleep cycle.

Regular Sleep Routine

Adhering to a regular sleep pattern, including weekends, aids in regulating the body’s circadian rhythm. Irregular sleep habits may disturb the inherent sleep-wake cycle, hence impeding children’s ability to go asleep at the intended bedtime.


Promoting consistent physical activity during the day may enhance the quality of sleep throughout the night. Nevertheless, it is crucial to schedule physical activity carefully, refraining from engaging in intense exercise at the time of going to bed.

Reducing Stress and Anxiety

Establishing a tranquil and anxiety-free atmosphere for sleep is of utmost importance. Attending to any stressors or anxieties and offering emotional assistance may greatly influence a child’s capacity to unwind and transition into a state of sleep.

Through the examination of these possibilities and the adoption of lifestyle modifications, parents may proactively tackle sleep problems without automatically turning to supplements. These measures not only enhance the quality of sleep but also foster the general well-being and healthy growth of the kid.

Regulatory Landscape

Parents must have a comprehensive understanding of the regulatory framework pertaining to melatonin supplements before contemplating their use for children. To guarantee responsible and safe consumption, it is important to thoroughly assess many factors such as age limitations, legal issues, and product quality.

Age Limitations

Age-specific guidelines may be provided for melatonin supplementation. Parents must strictly follow these recommendations. Pediatricians may provide insightful guidance on the suitability of melatonin for various age cohorts, assisting parents in making well-informed choices that correspond to their child’s stage of development.

Legal Factors

The legal implications for the selling and use of melatonin supplements might differ depending on the country. Parents should possess knowledge about the legal framework in their jurisdiction, comprehending if melatonin supplements are accessible without a prescription, need a prescription, or are subject to any particular limitations. Adherence to local legislation guarantees that parents are making legal and well-informed decisions.

Quality of the product

The efficacy of melatonin supplements may vary between different types and brands. Choosing renowned and long-standing brands may increase the probability of acquiring a product that has precise doses and exceptional purity. Validating the quality of a product, via the process of verifying third-party testing and certification, is a wise measure to guarantee that the supplement adheres to recognized safety benchmarks.

Discussion with Medical Professionals

Prior to initiating melatonin supplementation, it is imperative to get guidance from healthcare professionals, including pediatricians. Healthcare specialists may provide individualized guidance, considering the child’s well-being, any drug interactions, and unique sleep issues. This collective decision-making process ensures that the use of melatonin is in accordance with the child’s holistic welfare.

Recognition of Potential Hazards

Parents should be aware of the possible hazards linked to melatonin use, although seldom. This entails comprehending potential side effects and remaining watchful for any unfavorable responses. Establishing effective contact with healthcare professionals is crucial for swiftly resolving any problems that may develop with the administration of melatonin supplements.