Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain’s pituitary gland and is famous for the role of regulating sleep-wake cycles, but melatonin for children under the age of 10 isn’t typically encouraged by physicians other than in rare, special circumstances.
Synthetic melatonin is available as an over-the-counter hormonal supplement. The uses for adults are numerous, and melatonin for children is used for a wide variety of treatments. But because of the many possible side effects, it’s essential to consult with a physician regarding supplementation of this sleep-inducing hormone, particularly where children are involved.
Melatonin for Otherwise Healthy Children with Insomnia
Pediatricians don’t recommend that children of any age regularly take melatonin supplements as a way to deal with symptoms of insomnia. The first approach to sleeplessness would be to create healthy sleep patterns naturally by taking the following types of steps:
- As much as possible, always follow the same nightly and morning routine of going to sleep and waking.
- Discourage children from engaging in the following activities in the few hours preceding bedtime: watching television, playing on the computer, or exercising.
- Include 15 to 20 minutes of calm in the nightly routine, such as reading books and taking a warm bath.
- Don’t allow children to eat or drink anything which contains caffeine past the noon hour.
While in the past it was very rare for doctors to recommend melatonin for children with insomnia, there has quite recently been a trend in which doctors do suggest that healthy children take melatonin in small doses as a sleep aid.
For adolescents in particular, melatonin for children has been found to be very helpful as a sleep aid and far superior to other types of sedative medications.
Children With Developmental Disabilities
There is actually very little research related to the use of melatonin for children, and most of the studies done were conducted on children with developmental disabilities. These children have been found to need supplements because their bodies either don’t produce melatonin at all or they do so only on an erratic basis.
Melatonin can help with sleep-wake cycle disturbances in children who have central nervous system disorders, mental retardation, and autism.
Additional Uses of Melatonin for Children
Melatonin for children is found to be appropriate and effective in some situations. But for children who simply fight going to bed as a form of defiant behavior or seldom have trouble sleeping, it’s not recommended.
Evidence suggests that melatonin for children who experience seizures is effective at decreasing the amount of epileptic activity, particularly during sleep.
Melatonin for children with tardive dyskinsea can be helpful. Tardive dyskinsea is a condition in which oxidative damage occurs as a result of taking antipsychotic drugs. Melatonin is an antioxidant which has proven to help in high doses, though lower doses are essentially ineffective.
Melatonin is one of the natural medicines for children which could be effective in helping to alleviate the discomfort caused by ringing in the ears, a condition called “tinnitus.”
Young people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome find relief from pain and discomfort by taking melatonin supplements.
Melatonin for children is an appropriate treatment for young ones who are suffering from brain injuries which have caused the brain to cease producing adequate levels of melatonin.
Children who suffer from fatigue syndrome are often found to have deficits of melatonin, and supplementation can help.
Taken before surgery, melatonin has proven to be effective in relieving the pain experienced by patients of all ages with extensive tissue injuries.
Side Effects of Melatonin for Children
Possible side effects in children taking melatonin is an important consideration, as is true with adults. And because of the potential risks of taking supplements, medical reasons for sleep disorders should first be considered, with the help of a physician. For instance, attention deficit-hyperactivity and breathing problems should be ruled out as causes for sleeplessness.
Rather than being helpful at reducing anxiety, one of the side effects of taking melatonin is an increase in anxiety.
Melatonin should be taken with particular precaution because of the fact that it has interactions with herbs and a wide range of other medications, such as anti-depressants, and blood pressure pills.
Some additional known side effects of melatonin in children include:
- An increase in seizure activity
- Behavioral changes
Melatonin supplements can affect the body’s ability to use the hormone insulin; in other words, it can cause blood sugar levels to rise.
One of the greatest potential risks of using melatonin for children is that it could interfere with adolescent development. Along the lines of the safety of melatonin for children who are still developing, consider the fact that melatonin affects a female’s menstrual cycle and can be used in conjunction with birth control methods, to increase their effectiveness.