The Hidden Dangers Of Melatonin

There are two kinds of parents.  Those who give their kids melatonin to put the little darlings to sleep, and those who are thinking really seriously about giving their kids melatonin.  Starting tonight.

But is that a good idea?

Melatonin isn’t a drug.  It’s the hormone responsible for telling the human body that night has arrived and it’s time to slow down.  It starts pumping through the body when the amount of light entering your eyes begins to diminish.   Because our modern world is awash with nighttime light, including that from digital devices, our brain can miss the melatonin production signal. A melatonin supplement fills that gap and helps many kids (and adults) ease into sleep.

While melatonin is widely considered safe, some pediatricians have raised an eyebrow over the widespread routine use of the supplement. Hormones, they note, have an impact across the body, and melatonin’s long-term affects have not been studied.  Among the concerns: How does melatonin impact the hormonal changes necessary to puberty? Yale pediatric sleep expert Dr. Craig Calapari also warns that because the FDA does not regulate melatonin, there can be huge variances in the quality and dosage from batch to batch.

Calapari and others say melatonin should not be used as a substitute for good sleep practices for children.   Kids need a regular (and enforced) bedtime and wake-up time.  A bedtime routine is also helpful.  Screen time, including TV, should end one hour before bed.  Late afternoon naps should also be avoided.

The docs understand some of this may be rough on harried parents, but they firmly believe our kids are better off learning to fall asleep naturally and unaided.

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