At 5 Little Monkeys, we're on a mission to help kids everywhere get better, higher-quality sleep by providing the best children's sleep system on the market. But as parents ourselves, we know that sometimes, getting a child to bed can be a lot harder than it would seem. In our overstimulated world, bedtime can often feel more like a battle than a soothing ritual, and when that's the case, many parents turn to melatonin: a supplement that uses the same hormone the body naturally secretes in the hours before sleep. But is melatonin safe for kids? And if so, how should it be used?
Melatonin: Kids Best Friend or Secret Foe?
Melatonin has grown wildly in popularity in recent years, with sales increasing by almost 300% from 2007 to 2012. And while many use the hormone to self medicate, some parents also use it as an aid to help kids feel sleepy before bedtime.
So how does melatonin work? Melatonin is created and secreted by the body as a natural part of its circadian rhythm. Known as Dim Light Melatonin Onset (DLMO), this involves the body secreting melatonin as a response to lower light levels, usually starting about 1-3 hours before sleep onset. Oral melatonin supplements are intended to replicate this process artificially, introducing melatonin into the bloodstream and "tricking" the body into feeling tired.
For some kids, melatonin supplements may be both necessary and healthy overall. Children with insomnia or other chronic sleep disorders may need some kind of supplement in order to fall asleep on time, and when compared to more traditional sleep medications, melatonin seems to have far fewer side effects and be gentler on the body.
That said, there are virtually no studies as to the effects of long-term melatonin use. Current research indicates that the most significant side effect is probably extra drowsiness in the morning, but in terms of how melatonin use affects the body and the hormones over time, especially when given to growing, developing children – there is simply no data. On one level, melatonin is a hormone naturally found in the body, so this may not be concerning. On another, however, melatonin is just that – a hormone, which produces wide-ranging, whole-body effects that we still do not understand.
Ultimately, we always recommend talking with your pediatrician before starting to use any new medicine or supplement, including melatonin. It may be that your doctor recommends it as a healthy way to help your child sleep. However, more often than not, the problem has to do with sleep hygiene, and making changes to your child's bedtime and afternoon routines may be more effective than introducing a hormone supplement.
Try Our Children's Mattress Today
Melatonin may seem fairly innocuous, but the truth is, we simply don't understand the long-term effects. For that reason, it's always best to consult your pediatrician if you're considering using melatonin. And remember, many factors affect your child's sleep, including the mattress they're sleeping on. If you're interested in seeing the difference that a purpose-built kids mattress can make, we can help: take our 100-Night Rest Test and try our revolutionary childrens mattress risk-free. We wish you luck in helping your child get the healthy, restful sleep they deserve!