New advice on melatonin use in children

When it’s bedtime, what parents really, really want is for their kids to go to sleep. Not only do parents want their children to get the rest they need, but parents want to get some rest themselves! So it’s understandable that when children have trouble falling asleep, many parents reach for melatonin. Recent warnings about melatonin call this into question.

What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone that the body makes to regulate sleep. Commercially, it is sold without a prescription as a sleep aid. If you give your body more of a hormone that helps you sleep, you are more likely to fall asleep, right? This isn’t always true, of course; for many people, taking extra melatonin does little or nothing. But for some people, it does help — including some children.

Over the past couple of decades, the use of melatonin supplements has increased significantly. It’s the second most popular “natural” product parents give to their children after multivitamins.

A health advisory on melatonin supplements for children

Whenever a lot of people do something, things can go wrong. And indeed, there have been many reports of melatonin overdoses in children. While overdoses can lead to excessive sleepiness, headaches, nausea, or agitation, luckily they aren’t dangerous most of the time. That doesn’t mean that over-the-counter melatonin is completely safe, however. In fact, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recently issued a health advisory with warnings about its use.

Over-the-counter melatonin is classified as a dietary supplement. This means it’s not regulated by the FDA the way over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or diphenhydramine are regulated. There is no oversight on what companies put in the melatonin that parents buy.

And what they put in it is exactly the issue. The AASM warns that the amount of actual melatonin in tablets or liquid can vary, from less than what the label says to much more. The greatest variation is found in the chewable tablets, which are unfortunately the ones children are most likely to take. It’s also hard — impossible, even — to know what else might be in the supplement. The AASM reports that some melatonin products also contain serotonin, a hormone, and neurotransmitter that requires a prescription.

Helping children sleep well

The thing is, while some children really do benefit from melatonin, such as children with neurologic or neurodevelopmental problems, most don’t need it to get a good night’s sleep. Before buying a sleep aid — especially one that may not contain what you think it does — there are some strategies parents should try first.

  • Keep your child or teen on a regular sleep schedule. For teens, that sleep schedule should preferably include sleep at night, not during the day. It’s okay if your child stays up a little later on a weekend or during vacation, but try not to vary too much. Our bodies are more likely to drift off to sleep when we’re used to falling asleep at a particular time.
  • Make sure your child gets exercise during the day; it helps them be more tired at bedtime.
  • Once your child has given up naps, don’t do naps. If they come home from school exhausted because they stayed up too late, don’t let them nap — it will just make it harder to go to sleep that night.
  • Have a calming bedtime routine. This can be hard for high school students who have sports practices and homework, but to the extent that you can limit the stimulating stuff right before bedtime, please do. Think bathing, reading, and generally being quieter as bedtime approaches.
  • Shut off the screens. The blue light emitted by screens can wake up the brain, and it’s easy to get sucked into whatever you are doing on that screen. Ideally, screens should be off two hours before bedtime. For teens, it’s best to charge phones somewhere else besides the bedroom. If teens say they need the phone as their morning alarm, buy them an alarm clock.
  • Create a sleep environment conducive to sleep. Not having a TV or other device helps. For some kids, room-darkening curtains are great; for others, a night light is important. A white noise machine can help if there is ambient noise. Make the space inviting and comfortable — for sleep. It’s best if kids don’t hang out in their bed during the day or do homework there; the bed should be for sleep.

If you have tried all this and your child is still having trouble falling asleep, talk to your doctor before giving them melatonin. There may be other issues at play. By brainstorming together you may come up with ideas.

If you decide to use melatonin:

  • Select a product with the USP Verified mark, as it’s more likely to be of higher quality.
  • Start at a low dose.
  • Don’t give it every night. If you do, your child’s body gets used to it and you end up having to increase the dose.

Bottom line: if your child is having trouble falling asleep, there are lots to try before trying melatonin. Talk to your doctor before you buy — or try — it.

And what they put in it is exactly the issue. The AASM warns that the amount of actual melatonin in tablets or liquid can vary, from less than what the label says to much more. The greatest variation is found in the chewable tablets, which are unfortunately the ones children are most likely to take. It’s also hard — impossible, even — to know what else might be in the supplement. The AASM reports that some melatonin products also contain serotonin, a hormone, and neurotransmitter that requires a prescription.

Helping children sleep well

The thing is, while some children really do benefit from melatonin, such as children with neurologic or neurodevelopmental problems, most don’t need it to get a good night’s sleep. Before buying a sleep aid — especially one that may not contain what you think it does — there are some strategies parents should try first.

  • Keep your child or teen on a regular sleep schedule. For teens, that sleep schedule should preferably include sleep at night, not during the day. It’s okay if your child stays up a little later on a weekend or during vacation, but try not to vary too much. Our bodies are more likely to drift off to sleep when we’re used to falling asleep at a particular time.
  • Make sure your child gets exercise during the day; it helps them be more tired at bedtime.
  • Once your child has given up naps, don’t do naps. If they come home from school exhausted because they stayed up too late, don’t let them nap — it will just make it harder to go to sleep that night.
  • Have a calming bedtime routine. This can be hard for high school students who have sports practices and homework, but to the extent that you can limit the stimulating stuff right before bedtime, please do. Think about bathing, reading, and generally being quieter as bedtime approaches.
  • Shut off the screens. The blue light emitted by screens can wake up the brain, and it’s easy to get sucked into whatever you are doing on that screen. Ideally, screens should be off two hours before bedtime. For teens, it’s best to charge phones somewhere else besides the bedroom. If teens say they need the phone as their morning alarm, buy them an alarm clock.
  • Create a sleep environment conducive to sleep. Not having a TV or other device helps. For some kids, room-darkening curtains are great; for others, a night light is important. A white noise machine can help if there is ambient noise. Make the space inviting and comfortable — for sleep. It’s best if kids don’t hang out in their bed during the day or do homework there; bed should be for sleep.

If you have tried all this and your child is still having trouble falling asleep, talk to your doctor before giving them melatonin. There may be other issues at play. By brainstorming together you may come up with ideas.

If you decide to use melatonin:

  • Select a product with the USP Verified mark, as it’s more likely to be of higher quality.
  • Start at a low dose.
  • Don’t give it every night. If you do, your child’s body gets used to it and you end up having to increase the dose.

Bottom line: if your child is having trouble falling asleep, there are lots to try before trying melatonin. Talk to your doctor before you buy — or try — it.

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

Suppose you find fifty righteous people living there in the city—will you still sweep it away and not spare it for their sakes? (Genesis 18:24) And the Lord replied, “If I find fifty righteous people in Sodom, I will spare the entire city for their sake.” (Genesis 18:26)

And be sure to say, ‘Look, your servant Jacob is right behind us.’” Jacob thought, “I will try to appease him by sending gifts ahead of me. When I see him in person, perhaps he will be friendly to me.” (Genesis 32:20)
to say to you: ‘Please forgive your brothers for the great wrong they did to you—for their sin in treating you so cruelly.’ So we, the servants of the God of your father, beg you to forgive our sin.” When Joseph received the message, he broke down and wept. (Genesis 50:17)

“Forgive my sin, just this once, and plead with the Lord your God to take away this death from me.” (Exodus 10:17)
Pay close attention to him, and obey his instructions. Do not rebel against him, for he is my representative, and he will not forgive your rebellion. (Exodus 23:21)

Moses Intercedes for Israel The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a terrible sin, but I will go back up to the Lord on the mountain. Perhaps I will be able to obtain forgiveness for your sin.” (Exodus 32:30) So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a terrible sin these people have committed. They have made gods of gold for themselves. (Exodus 32:31) But now, if you will only forgive their sin—but if not, erase my name from the record you have written!” (Exodus 32:32)

The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. (Exodus 34:6) I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren; the entire family is affected— even children in the third and fourth generations.” (Exodus 34:7)

And he said, “O Lord, if it is true that I have found favor with you, then please travel with us. Yes, this is a stubborn and rebellious people, but please forgive our iniquity and our sins. Claim us as your own special possession.” (Exodus 34:9)
just as he does with the bull offered as a sin offering for the high priest. Through this process, the priest will purify the people, making them right with the Lord, and they will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:20) Then he must burn all the goat’s fat on the altar, just as he does with the peace offering. Through this process, the priest will purify the leader from his sin, making him right with the Lord, and he will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:26)

Then he must remove all the goat’s fat, just as he does with the fat of the peace offering. He will burn the fat on the altar, and it will be a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Through this process, the priest will purify the people, making them right with the Lord, and they will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:31) Then he must remove all the sheep’s fat, just as he does with the fat of a sheep presented as a peace offering. He will burn the fat on the altar on top of the special gifts presented to the Lord. Through this process, the priest will purify the people from their sin, making them right with the Lord, and they will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:35)

The priest will then prepare the second bird as a burnt offering, following all the procedures that have been prescribed. Through this process the priest will purify you from your sin, making you right with the Lord, and you will be forgiven. (Leviticus 5:10) Through this process, the priest will purify those who are guilty of any of these sins, making them right with the Lord, and they will be forgiven. The rest of the flour will belong to the priest, just as with the grain offering.” (Leviticus 5:13)

Recommended contacts for prayer requests and Bible study

www.agapetemplesda.com

www.adventistontario.org

https://www.hopechannel.com/au/learn/courses

breathoflife.tv/

https://3abn.org/all-streams/3abn.html

http://www.nadadventist.org/article/15/contact-us

https://www.adventist.org/en/utility/contact/

It Is Written

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