Melatonin: 5 Safety Tips for Kids and Teens - Nemours Blog


Melatonin: 5 Safety Tips for Kids and Teens

Melatonin: 5 Safety Tips for Kids and Teens

We all know that terrible feeling of not being able to sleep and drudging through the next day in a fog. If your child is having trouble sleeping, of course you want to help.

You have probably heard of using melatonin for sleep problems. Its use has skyrocketed in the past few years. Melatonin is a hormone (or chemical messenger) made by the brain. It helps us fall asleep. Melatonin is also made as a dietary supplement and can be bought in the U.S. without a prescription. But is melatonin safe for kids and teens? Does it work?

If melatonin is used with guidance from a health care provider, it is probably safe for short-term use in kids over 5 years. It can help kids and teens get some rest while they work through certain types of sleep problems. But it is still being studied so we don’t know for sure what the long-term effects are. So, melatonin should not be used long-term in kids. Studies are ongoing to see if it can impact puberty, change how much melatonin the body makes on its own, and how it interacts with other medicines. Melatonin can cause mild symptoms (like bedwetting, drowsiness, headaches, and agitation) in some kids and teens.

To use melatonin safely:

  1. Take your child to your health care provider before starting melatonin. The health care provider can figure out why your child is having trouble sleeping. If they think melatonin can help, they can recommend the right dose and type. They can make sure that melatonin is safe if your child has any medical problems (including anxiety and depression) or takes any medicines. And if your health care provider thinks melatonin won’t help, you can work together to find other solutions.
  2. Don’t use melatonin alone to try to fix sleep problems. If your child is watching videos right before bed and you give them melatonin to fall asleep, they aren’t developing the sleep habits they need in the future. Good sleep habits start with a regular sleep and wake time, avoiding screens for a few hours before bed, and not drinking caffeine.
  3. Buy pharmaceutical grade melatonin that has been certified by a group such as Consumer Lab, NSF International, or UL and U.S. Pharmacopeia. Since the FDA has not approved melatonin, it doesn’t regulate how it’s made. These groups test the product to make sure it contains the amount of medicine that it says it does and that it doesn’t have other ingredients that aren’t listed on the label.
  4. Don’t give melatonin to kids who:
    1. Are under 5 years old.
    2. Have chronic (long-term) sleep problems.
    3. Aren’t sleeping because of an illness (like an ear infection).
    4. Have difficulty sleeping because of a medical condition (like sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome).

Learn More

Your Child’s Sleep (Nemours KidsHealth)

Amy Anzilotti, MD

Amy Anzilotti, MD, is a general pediatrician and a medical editor at Nemours KidsHealth.