‘We’re concerned’: Doctors sound alarm on giving melatonin to kids

For many parents of young children, getting them ready for bed can be more of a nightmare than a sweet dream.

That struggle is enticing a growing number of people to give their children the sleep aid melatonin, according to a new study conducted by the University of Colorado Boulder.

“Melatonin is a hormone that’s naturally produced by the body as a cue to start getting ready for bed,” said Lauren Hartstein, a postdoctoral fellow in the Sleep and Development Lab at CU Boulder.

As part of the study, researchers interviewed about 1,000 parents of kids ages 1 to 13 about their child’s sleep patterns.

“About 5 percent of preschool-age children, one through four years of age, had taken melatonin in the last 30 days, and that number jumped significantly higher once children started school, to almost one in five school-age children and pre-teens having taken it recently,” Hartstein said.

For perspective, from 2017-2018, the study said about 1.3 percent of parents reported melatonin use in kids.

Some health experts caution that what seems like a solution can come with risks. Especially when many melatonin supplements don’t come with full regulation from the Food and Drug Administration.

Leigh McMahon, who works as a pediatric sleep consultant, said, “We’re concerned about what is the effect on hormones and that process as children get older?”

Officials are now worried that melatonin products for kids come in gummy form with many containing different levels of melatonin than what’s listed on the label.

“The number of calls to U.S. Poison Control centers about melatonin ingestion increased 530 percent from 2012 to 2021,” Hartstein said.

Researchers believe the surge in melatonin use among the younger generations could indicate high levels of sleep disorders, but that still needs to be studied.

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