Does My Child Need Melatonin?

With school starting, many parents have questions and concerns about the amount of sleep their child is getting. I get asked multiple times per week about melatonin. Before we dig further into this supplement, let's talk a bit more about sleep.


HOW MUCH SLEEP SHOULD MY CHILD BE GETTING?

The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine suggests the following number of sleep hours to promote optimal health:

  • 4-12 months: 12-16 hours (including naps)

  • 1-2 years: 11-14 hours (including naps)

  • 3-5 years: 10-13 hours (including naps)

  • 6-12 years: 9-12 hours

  • 13-18 years: 8-10 hours


WHAT TOOLS CAN I USE BEFORE REACHING FOR A SUPPLEMENT? I always recommend trying non-pharmacological tips and tricks first. Some of these SUPER simple changes can make such a difference!

  • Cut off electronics. I recommend turning off all tablets, phones, televisions, and video games at least 45 minutes before bedtime.

  • Maintain the same bedtime and wake-up time on weekdays and weekends. Your body doesn't like a rollercoaster! It won't be easy to try and go to sleep at 9 PM on a school day if we stay up until 1 AM on the weekends.

  • Save the bedroom for sleep only. Have your child do all activities in another room, such as playing and homework. The bedroom should be your SLEEPING SANCTUARY.

  • Maintain adequate exercise and get outside! It is so important to exercise regularly, but make sure it is not too close to bedtime. This can make it difficult to wind down. IS MELATONIN SAFE? Overall, yes. However, this depends on the child's age, dosage, and consideration of any other underlying diseases. It is also important to remember that these are SUPPLEMENTS. Meaning it is not fully regulated by the FDA. You don't always know exactly what you're getting in a supplement. Supplements such as melatonin are not entirely harmless either. A study from this year showed that the number of reports to poison control centers increased drastically from 2021. Discussing these supplements with your healthcare provider before offering them to your child is essential. WHEN SHOULD I WORRY? If your child continues to have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep after trying all of the above non-pharmacological tips

  • Snoring

  • Daytime sleepiness

  • Restlessness

  • Sleepwalking Bottom line... Chat with your child's PCP before starting any supplementation. Lastly, if you think your child accidentally ingested melatonin or overdosed, please call The Poison Control Hotline at 800-222-1222 immediately.


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