According to researchers at the University of Adelaide, parents and doctors should not give children melatonin to battle their sleep issues.
As a natural hormone in our body that helps us feel sleepy and stay asleep at the right times, melatonin as triggered by darkness and plays a role in keeping our circadian rhythm in order.
Published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, study author Professor David Kennaway says that giving children melatonin can lead to unwanted changes in multiple physiological systems, including immune, metabolic and cardiovascular systems.
Surprisingly, melatonin is also used as a veterinary drug to help change the seasonal patterns of farm animals to make them more productive. Professor Kennaway believes parents would try other options for their children if they knew this information.
While melatonin is easily obtained as an over-the-counter drug in the US, in Australia the drug is typically prescribed for adults over the age of 55. However, it is recognized as an “off label treatment for sleep disorders in children.” In fact, America is the only country in the world where melatonin use is unregulated.
After researching melatonin for the past 40 years, Professor Kennaway also says that we should take into consideration there haven’t been any long-term safety studies regarding giving melatonin to children and adolescents, bringing into question the real effects of the drug.
“Considering the small advances melatonin provides to the timing of sleep, and considering what we know about how melatonin works in the body, it is not worth the risk to child and adolescent safety,” he further suggests.
If your child is having any type of sleep issues speak to a licensed pediatrician as soon as possible. Children are at a critical age with the benefits of sleep helping to shape their future.