A recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics from the University of Colorado Boulder has shed light on the rising trend of melatonin usage among U.S. children and teenagers. Alarmingly, the research reveals that nearly 20% of school-aged children under 14 are now using melatonin supplements to aid sleep.
Increasing Melatonin Usage
The study, which surveyed 993 families, found that parents are increasingly resorting to melatonin, often in child-friendly forms like gummies, to help their children sleep. Furthermore, it's not uncommon for parents to administer melatonin for periods exceeding 12 months. However, the long-term safety of melatonin use in this young demographic remains largely uncharted territory, causing concern among health professionals.
Off Label Usage and Side Effects
Canadian pediatricians are particularly alarmed, noting that melatonin usage in children and teenagers is considered 'off label'. Health Canada currently regulates melatonin for sleep disruption in adults only. This means that any use in children and teens is at the discretion of the prescriber. Moreover, the regulation of melatonin differs from that of prescription or over-the-counter products, leading to significant dosage variability in available products. Overdoses, bad dreams, and aggressive behavior can be potential side effects of excessive melatonin usage.
Prevention Before Supplementation
Experts advocate for a preventative and behavioral approach to sleep issues before resorting to supplements. They encourage families to seek professional medical advice for managing sleep problems in children and teens. The lowest effective dose of melatonin is recommended for those who opt for supplementation, and extreme caution is urged due to the potential risks involved. The study underscores the need for more research on the long-term safety of melatonin in children and teenagers.