Is the Sleep Aid Melatonin Safe for Children and Adults
Is the Sleep Aid Melatonin Safe for Children and Adults:-There’s a dearth of safety data for melatonin, but there are a number of potential concerns, especially for children.
“I think we just don’t know what the potential long-term effects are, particularly when you’re talking about young children,” said Dr. Judith Owens, director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Parents really need to understand that there are potential risks.”
The pineal gland in the brain ramps up production of the hormone melatonin in the evening, as light fades, to encourage sleep, and it turns down production in the early morning hours. Synthetic forms of the hormone are also sold as a dietary supplement; because melatonin is found in some foods, like barley, olives and walnuts, it is regulated as a nutritional supplement rather than a drug, as most other hormones are.
In adults, studies have found melatonin to be effective for jet lag and some sleep disorders. It is also hugely popular as a sleep aid for children and can be useful for sleep disorders among those with attention-deficit disorders or autism, Dr. Owens said. “I rarely see a family come in with a child with insomnia who hasn’t tried melatonin,” she said. “I would say at least 75 percent of the time when they come in to see us” at the sleep clinic, “they’re either on melatonin or they’ve tried it in the past.”
While short-term use of the hormone is generally considered safe, it can have side effects, including headaches, dizziness and daytime grogginess, which could pose a risk for drivers. Melatonin can also interfere with blood pressure, diabetes and blood thinning medications.
Less is known about this potent hormone’s effects in children. Some research suggests it could, at least in theory, have effects on developing reproductive, cardiovascular, immune and metabolic systems.
If you do turn to melatonin, Dr. Owens says, do so under the guidance of a health care professional and buy melatonin from a reputable source. “Pharmaceutical grade” melatonin, she said, may have more precise dosing levels than off-the-shelf brands. A study published in November in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that 71 percent of melatonin samples were more than 10 percent off the stated dose, with some lots containing nearly five times the listed dose.