Experts advise against giving melatonin to your restless child because of fears of poisoning

Parents are warned against giving children melatonin after a spike in accidental poisoning.

Experts said there’s no evidence the over-the-counter supplement helps them fall asleep and they have no idea what’s actually in many products.

Our bodies naturally produce the hormone melatonin to help us fall asleep by helping regulate the circadian clocks that control our sleep/wake cycles.

Melatonin supplements can improve your sleep if you have a disrupted circadian rhythm due to certain life circumstances, such as jet lag or working the night shift.

However, according to sleep scientists, they should never be the first tool parents turn to when they have restless children.

Increasingly, the supplement is being sold in gummed or chewable forms with appealing flavors like fruit punch, a feature experts warn makes them enticing to children.

“The availability of melatonin as gummies or chewable tablets makes it more enticing to give to children and increases the likelihood of overdose,” said Dr. M. Adeel Rishi, Vice Chair of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

However, there is little evidence that the sleep aid can help children with insomnia, and experts advise parents to work closely with a pediatrician before giving it to a child.

Melatonin intakes in children reported to poison control centers, 2012-2021

“Parents should speak directly with their child’s doctor before giving their children melatonin products,” Rishi added. “Often behavioral interventions other than medication are successful in treating insomnia in children.”

A store shelf of children’s melatonin supplements

While it may help insomniacs fall asleep faster and stay asleep, experts warn that less is more. Take 1 to 3 milligrams two hours before bed, according to Johns Hopkins sleep expert Luis F. Buenaver.

It has become the over-the-counter tablet of choice for people with insomnia, and the market is booming. Revenue increased from $285 million in 2016 to $821 million in 2020, according to the federal report.

The supplement is also ubiquitous. A bottle of 30 pills can be bought from almost any pharmacy for as little as $10 (£9.10).

The AASM’s warning follows a report released in June by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that found annual intakes of melatonin by children increased 530% from 2012 to 2021, with a total of 260,435 intakes reported.

Melatonin ingestion accounted for nearly 5% of all pediatric poisoning cases in 2021, compared to 0.6% in 2012, and was the most commonly ingested substance among children reported to national poison centers.

Demographic breakdown of poison control reports.

Hospital admissions for melatonin use also skyrocketed during this period, particularly among children under the age of five, with five children requiring mechanical ventilation and two dying. But only 1% of children required intensive care.

While the vast majority of cases reported to poison control centers were asymptomatic, about 84 percent had more serious symptoms involving the gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, or central nervous systems.

What is melatonin and how does it work?

– Melatonin is one of the most commonly used sleep aids in the US

– It is a hormone that your body produces naturally in response to changes in daylight

– The melatonin level increases in the evening and promotes sleep

– Under the guidance of a pediatrician, it can be safe for children

– Melatonin levels can vary widely between products, so parents are urged to exercise caution

– It should only be used when other methods such as limiting screen time and setting an earlier bedtime fail

A melatonin overdose is rarely fatal, but more severe cases can cause very low blood pressure, disorientation, and tremors. Vomiting is a common side effect of melatonin venom, and when your child starts slurring their speech, it’s time to go to the emergency room.

Melatonin levels can vary widely, with the greatest variation in gummy bear formulations tending to be used by children.

“In addition, serotonin, a breakdown product of melatonin, has been found in 26% of dietary supplements in potentially clinically significant doses that may increase the risk of serotonin toxicity in children,” the CDC reported.

Dietary supplements like melatonin and multivitamins don’t face the same stringent regulatory hurdles as prescription drugs and biologics.

The safety of melatonin is only guaranteed to the extent that the Food and Drug Administration proves the product is unsafe if found to be harmful to humans and then takes legal action against the manufacturer.

“Rather than turning to melatonin, parents should work to encourage their children to develop good sleep habits, such as “By setting a regular bedtime and wakeup time, having a bedtime, and limiting screen time as bedtime approaches,” Rishi said.

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