Melatonin supplements helpful for children to fall asleep?

LA CROSSE, Wis. - For many parents, getting their kids to fall asleep at night can be a battle.

That's why some parents are turning to a supplement called melatonin to help, but is using the supplement a good idea?

Using melatonin, as a supplement, to help children fall asleep can be beneficial but only for certain children.

Melatonin is a hormone naturally found in the human body. It helps control our sleep cycles, but for children with autism or attention disorders, it's a lot more challenging for them to fall asleep.

That's where doctors at Mayo Clinic Health System said it may be helpful to use a melatonin supplement, but for children without disorders, who just have trouble falling asleep, the supplement may not help as much.

"So it may help them be a little more sleepy, but a lot of those children it doesn't work very well because it's actually a behavioral problem with sleep rather, than a true medical problem where a lack of being able to go to sleep like it is with a kid with attentional deficit or autism or mental retardation [or] something like that," said C.J. Menagh, doctor of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at Mayo Clinic Health System.


Melatonin supplements are considered more like a vitamin and not a medication.

Dr. Enrique Machare of the pulmonary and sleep department at Mayo health system, said while there are some short-term side effects to using Melatonin such as dizziness, headaches and drowsiness, there really are no studies to show what the long term effects are of using the supplement, especially in children.

He said the best way to help your children fall asleep is to develop a bedtime routine you can use every night.

"Helping the kid to know that it is bed time," said Machare. "So, either taking a bath, reading a book, listening to quite music or lowering the lights in the room, those routines will help signal the kid that it's getting time to sleep. "So, that's the most important part to helping kids fall asleep."

Doctors suggest babies, especially newborns, need about 15 to 16 hours of sleep. Children ages 3 to 5 need around 12 hours and school-age children, ages 5 to 10 need usually around 10 hours.

If parents choose to use the supplement, they're urged to check with their doctor first to find out the appropriate dosage that would be safe for their child.

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