It’s estimated that up to 75% of school-aged children don’t get enough sleep. Unfortunately, poor sleep can affect a child’s mood and ability to pay attention and learn. It has also been linked to health issues such as childhood obesity. This is why some parents consider giving their children melatonin, a hormone and popular sleep aid.
Melatonin levels rise in the evening, which lets your body know it’s time to head to bed. Conversely, melatonin levels start to fall a few hours before it’s time to wake up. It also helps regulate your blood pressure, body temperature, cortisol levels and immune function.
In the US, melatonin is available over-the-counter at many drug and health food stores. However, in other parts of the world, including Australia, New Zealand and many European countries, melatonin is only available with a prescription.
An analysis of 35 studies in children with autism found that melatonin supplements helped them fall asleep faster and a stay asleep longer. Similarly, an analysis of 13 studies found that children with a neurological condition fell asleep 29 minutes faster and slept 48 minutes longer on average when taking melatonin.
Similar effects have been observed in healthy kids and teenagers who struggle to fall asleep. However, sleep problems are complex and can be caused by a variety of factors.
For instance, using light-emitting devices late at night can suppress melatonin production. If this is the case, simply limiting technology use before bed can help treat sleep issues.
Most studies show that short-term melatonin use is safe for kids with little or no side effects. However, some children may experience symptoms such as nausea, headaches, bed wetting excessive sweating, dizziness, morning grogginess, stomach pains and more.
Currently, health professionals are unsure about the long-term side effects of melatonin, as little research has been done in that regard. Additionally, melatonin supplements are not approved for use in children by the FDA. Until long-term studies have been conducted, it’s
impossible to say if melatonin is entirely safe for children.
Like most articles on melatonin, the basic chemistry is misstated. Melatonin production actually starts early in the day, stimulated by exposure to sunlight. It builds up in the pineal gland all day long in an inactive state. Only when light is eliminated, does the melatonin become active. In a natural setting, exposure to daylight all day long produces large amounts of melatonin that activates when it gets dark, allowing us to let go of the day and fall asleep. The spent hormone then is dismantled by dawn and the cycle starts over again.
The key to regulating melatonin levels is plenty of natural sunlight during the day and complete darkness when preparing to sleep and while sleeping. That means no TV, night lights, LED lights or other sources of illumination in the bedroom.
If creating a more natural environment fails, then consider using the herb Chaste Tree short term. Taken first thing in the morning, Chaste Tree stimulates the pineal to produce more melatonin. Studies show that melatonin production increases by 95% within two weeks of daily supplementation. I typically supplement Chaste Tree for 20 days then reevaluate. Most of the time, Chaste Tree can then be discontinued.
Melatonin is not safe for children or adults. It is a hormone that modulates all the other hormones in the body. That’s how it helps regulate your blood pressure, body temperature, cortisol levels and immune function.
The only exception is air travel. If you fly through four on more time zones in a single day, a single dose of melatonin taken 30 minutes before you want to go to sleep will help reset your circadian rhythm.
Source: July 20, 2018 Healthline