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When Lullabies Won’t Work . . . Melatonin?

Filed Under: Supplements at 3:16 pm | By: Susan Coyle, Senior Editor
Sleeping ChildrenFor almost all parents, bedtime spells a fight. Few children willingly crawl under the covers when they’re told. And if they do, it’s unlikely that sleep is imminent. Squabbles and fits ensue until the child caves, exhausted. It’s an inevitable process, a part of parenthood, but for some, it’s worse than the occasional spat. It’s an ongoing war. Sleep isn’t simply a matter of contention; it’s an impossibility. It takes hours every night to lure the child into dreamland. The parents, more tired than their offspring, begin searching desperately for ways to calm their rambunctious non-sleepers.

Is there anywhere for them to turn?

According to some, there is: melatonin. It’s a nutritional supplement, marketed towards jet-lagged tourists as a way to help them fall asleep if unable to adapt to the time change. And now, parents are using it as a sleep aid, administering it to their kids before bed and turning those painful nights into distant memories.  Doses aren’t exceeding 3 mgs, and the children are all over 10, so for the most part it’s safe. But as with anything, there are cautions.

While many studies have found child use of melatonin to be safe and effective, the research almost universally focused on children with autism or other developmental disabilities. Therefore, it’s unclear exactly how it would affect an otherwise healthy child. Moreover, as a supplement, melatonin is not regulated by the FDA, which means you don’t have the government check you would with other products. So you want to be careful. Talk with your child’s pediatrician extensively. This isn’t something you should start administering without just cause. It should be something you do armed with a mountain of information and an assurance of safety. After all, this is your child.

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