American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Health Advisory: Melatonin Use in Children and Adolescents
Melatonin is a natural hormone that helps us regulate our own sleep timing. Even though our body makes its melatonin in the brain, some people use extra melatonin to improve their sleep. Melatonin can improve sleep in children whose body clocks are “off schedule” and in some children with developmental problems.
Melatonin use has increased in the last two decades across all ages.3 Melatonin is the secondmost popular “natural” product that parents give to their children, next to multivitamins. With this increased use, there are growing reports of melatonin overdose, calls to poison control centers, and emergency room visits for children, even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Parents should talk to a health care professional before giving melatonin or any supplement to children. 6 Be aware that in the U.S., melatonin is considered a “dietary supplement.” Melatonin is not under FDA oversight like other over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications. Melatonin content in supplements can vary widely. In one study, melatonin ranged from less than one-half to more than four times the amount stated on the label. The most significant variability in melatonin content was in chewable tablets - the form children are most likely to use. Some products even contained other chemicals that need medical prescriptions.
To address the safe use of melatonin in children and teens, we advise that: 1. Melatonin should be handled as any other medication and kept out of reach of children. 2. Before starting melatonin or any supplement in their children, parents should discuss this decision with a pediatric health care professional. Many sleep problems can be better managed with a change in schedules, habits, or behaviors rather than taking melatonin. 3. If melatonin is used, the health care professional can recommend the melatonin dose and timing for the sleep problem. Parents should select a product with the USP Verified Mark to allow for safer use...