The Negative Impacts of Synthetic Melatonin on Our Children
By Samantha Graham – Phoenix, Arizona
When our toddlers are not sleeping well, we can feel desperate to get them to sleep. Many times, parents hear about over-the-counter melatonin to help their children sleep through the night. Since many think of this as a natural substance, you may think that it is the healthiest way to get your little guy to sleep, right? However, for many reasons, we do not recommend using melatonin with your children. Melatonin is naturally produced in the body around the same time every day when the sun sets. This is one of our body’s beautiful designs to help prepare us to get tired. However, when we use outside sources to produce melatonin, we can confuse the body and our natural circadian rhythms. Our goal is to work with the body’s naturally occurring process, not to attempt to override it!
One concern is posed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, who reports that the FDA does not closely monitor the quality of ingredients in melatonin supplements. Also, the lead of the Pediatric Sleep Center, Dr. Maida Chen, says “Often the child has a chronic sleep disorder, and melatonin is covering up the underlying symptoms. It can be a slippery slope for families because continuing use of melatonin can delay obtaining more appropriate treatment for the underlying sleep disorder.” There may be medical reasons to have an open conversation with your child’s doctor about using melatonin. If your child has a medical diagnosis such as ADHD, their medical doctor may recommend melatonin.
Specifically for long-term use, there are medical concerns that are yet to be thoroughly researched. There may be long-lasting effects on the child’s body development. The Mayo Clinic has this concern about long-term use: “Melatonin levels have an impact on how the ovaries and testes function. Further study is needed to determine if taking melatonin during childhood or the teen years can have an impact on a person’s sexual development.”
Instead of using melatonin with your little ones, we recommend building a healthy bedtime routine. When we put these routine pieces into place, our kiddos have the tools they need to use their naturally-produced melatonin to achieve quality sleep, without all of the potential side effects. A short walk outside before bed, a bath or change in body temperature, and an early bedtime (6:30-7:00 pm) are all positive ways to use the body’s natural rhythms to ensure a restful sleep. If you need support putting these pieces into place, or if you continue to struggle with your little one’s sleep, your team at A to Z Sleep Solutions would love to help you through it.
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