Can a child receive melatonin: what do doctors say?
Anxiety, stress, as well as a free regime and a lack of self-isolation walks disrupt sleep not only in adults. And at normal times, children may suffer from insomnia, let alone the quarantine period. Many parents are already looking for options for “mild sleeping pills” for themselves – and the choice often falls on dietary supplements.
Melatonin, the sleep hormone, is considered one of the good options – although it has many limitations and side effects. Is it worth giving it to a child who cannot sleep? Here’s what experts say on this score.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced in the body. A small structure in the brain known as the pineal gland or pineal gland produces and releases melatonin to control circadian rhythm.
A circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle in which a person’s brain switches between states of alertness and sleepiness. The circadian rhythm plays an important role in the onset of both sleep and appetite.
If a person of any age does not produce enough melatonin, they may develop insomnia.
Melatonin supplements are a popular treatment for children who have trouble falling asleep. How do drugs help? With their help, a little more “sleep hormone” appears in the body, and a person falls asleep more easily.
Why is it a dietary supplement?
Melatonin in medications is considered a dietary supplement and not a medical drug.
The regulation of the manufacture and sale of dietary supplements (dietary supplements) is much less stringent than for prescription or other over-the-counter drugs.
This makes it easier for consumers to access melatonin, but it also means that there are no clear dietary supplement dosage recommendations or safety studies.
So in many cases it will depend on which manufacturer released the supplement and what doses are used. Can melatonin be used in children at all?
Is melatonin effective?
Some research suggests that melatonin can help children fall asleep faster. Melatonin can also improve the quality of sleep in children.
A 2017 study examined the effects of melatonin on children with chronic insomnia. These children constantly have difficulty falling asleep.
The researchers identified several groups of children and used the following therapy options:
- 3 mg Rapid Release Melatonin Tablets
- light therapy;
- placebo (dummy, tablet with no active ingredient in it).
Research has shown that melatonin is significantly more effective in reducing the time it takes children to fall asleep than placebo. Doctors also noted that melatonin has a stronger effect than light therapy.
A small 2015 study looked at melatonin as a sleep aid for children with epilepsy.
The researchers found that children who took 9 mg of sustained-release melatonin fell asleep 11.4 minutes faster than children who took a placebo. 11 minutes, of course, does not justify the use of the drug.
A paper published in 2013 reviewed five studies that looked at drug treatment for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Scientists concluded that melatonin appears to have a positive effect on the treatment of insomnia symptoms in children with ADHD. However, they also state that further research is needed to confirm these findings.
Safe dosage for children
Although some scientific work suggests that melatonin may be an effective treatment for children with sleep problems, the correct duration of treatment and dosage remain unclear. And that’s the problem.
Melatonin comes in several forms, including those for children. In the USA, where it is customary to solve the problems of children’s behavior and sleep with the help of drugs much more often than in Russia, there is even melatonin in chewing gum and syrup. However, since it also belongs to the dietary supplement group, there are no official dosage recommendations for either children or adults.
At the moment, this drug has been studied for serious sleep problems – and there it is justified.
It is best to discuss the possibility of taking melatonin with your pediatrician.
In any case, the initial dose for children should be very low, and its correction should be done not independently, but under the supervision of a specialist. And first of all, try to establish a regimen, and leave the pills as a last resort (which cannot last more than a week).
Some children may experience headaches, bedwetting, and dizziness while taking melatonin.
Research appears to suggest that melatonin is safe for children in the short term. However, melatonin can cause side effects in children and it is best to talk to your doctor before giving melatonin to your child.
According to a 2013 review, some children taking melatonin did experience mild side effects such as headaches, bedwetting, and dizziness.
These symptoms disappeared after discontinuation of treatment.
Other possible side effects of melatonin may include:
- abdominal pain;
- excessive sweating;
- vision problems;
- daytime laziness.
It is also important to note that there is little research on the safety of long-term use of melatonin in children. Since it is a hormone, there is a possibility of endocrine disruption.
Tips for helping with sleep disorders
For children with sleep disorders, it is always best to make lifestyle changes before trying medications. If these changes are unsuccessful, your therapist or pediatrician may recommend other treatment options.
Lifestyle changes that can help improve your baby’s sleep include the following.
- Fixing regular bedtime. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, a person gets used to the regime and falls asleep easier.
- The daily routine before bedtime. Research shows that following certain bedtime routines helps children fall asleep. For example, one scientific study observed preschoolers with a three-stage preparation for sleep. It consisted of bathing, applying lotion and performing soothing actions – fairy tales, lullabies. Preparation should not take more than half an hour – from the end of the bath.
- Use the bed only for sleeping. Doing other activities on the bed makes it difficult for the brain to associate bed with sleep.
- Air temperature in the bedroom: it is necessary to keep it cool. This helps initiate the sleep process. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the ideal bedroom temperature is between 16 ° C and 19 ° C.
- Turn off electronic devices. The use of smartphones, TVs, and tablets before bedtime can affect your ability to fall asleep. The best option is to use a “no electronics policy” before going to bed.
The same rules – from routine to temperature and no gadgets in bed – help adults fall asleep as well.
Also, pay attention to the list of sleep foods: those containing tryptophan, melatonin and magnesium help you fall asleep faster and sleep better!
When should you see a doctor?
If your child’s sleep problems do not improve with lifestyle changes, you should see your doctor. In addition, medical attention is needed if the child has any of the following symptoms:
- loud snoring that interrupts sleep;
- frequent nightmares or rare but severe nightmares;
- excessive bedwetting;
- severe sleepiness during the daytime.