Apple cider vinegar Is Pilates for you? 'Ambient gaslighting' 'Main character energy'
Dietary supplements

1 in 5 children under the age of 14 take melatonin regularly, new study shows

New research published this month shows that one in five children under the age of 14 are taking melatonin regularly.

American families are relying heavily on melatonin supplements as a sleep aid for their kids. New research published this month shows that one in five children under the age of 14 are taking it regularly and 18% of children ages 5 to 9.

This insight comes after the American Academy of Sleep Medicine issued a health advisory last year, urging parents to speak with their child's pediatrician before starting long-term melatonin use.

And after alarming evidence released April by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that showed mislabeled melatonin levels in 25 gummy products. Some products were found containing more than 300% the amount of melatonin listed on the bottle.

Study:Some sleep-aid gummies contain over 300% more melatonin than labeled

What is melatonin?

Melatonin, a hormone produced in the brain that regulates a person's sleep cycle, is one of the most common supplements children consume in the U.S., according to Harvard Health. The U.S. is one of the few countries where melatonin can be purchased and distributed. In most other nations it is classified as a drug.

Is melatonin safe for kids?

Generally, yes. 

Melatonin may be beneficial for some children who have difficulty falling asleep, but it is a short-term solution that should be coupled with a behavioral plan to get a child better sleep, the Boston Children's Hospital advises. That said, it is still considered safe when used appropriately and in consultation with a health care provider.

New research published this month shows that one in five children under the age of 14 are taking melatonin regularly.

What age can you give kids melatonin? (Dosage recommendations)

Boston Children's Hospital advises parents with healthy, typically developing children under the age of 3, to avoid melatonin use as difficulties sleeping are "almost always behavioral in nature." For children between the ages of 3 and 5, a pediatrician should be consulted.

If a pediatrician recommends a supplement, these are the dosages recommended by the Sleep Foundation:

  • Preschoolers (5 years): 1 to 2 milligrams
  • School-age (6 to 12 years): 1 to 3 milligrams
  • Adolescents (13 to 18 years): 1 to 5 milligrams

Note: More studies are emerging involving children on the autism spectrum concerning abnormalities in melatonin physiology. Clinical studies have reported improvements in sleep and daytime behaviors in kids with ASD who have been given the supplement.

The risk of melatonin gummies

Melatonin in gummy form can be dangerous because it looks like candy.

From 2012 to 2021, reports of melatonin ingestion to poison control centers increased 530%, largely occurring among children under age 5, the CDC reported. More than 94% were unintentional.

Excessive melatonin consumption has not been shown to be fatal and so far, there isn't evidence of long-term problems from short-term use of melatonin.

But there is more risk involved when taking higher doses, Dr. Hal Alpert, telemedicine consultant for Blue Sleep previously told USA TODAY.

The side effects of too much melatonin

Here are some of the potential risks, according to Dr. Hal Alpert:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Vivid dreams (sometimes nightmares)
  • Dry mouth
  • Itchy skin

And in extreme cases:

  • Rebound insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Sedation that lasts into the next day

Josie Goodrich and Nada Hassanein contributed to this reporting.

Featured Weekly Ad