Melatonin As A Sleep Aid

Girlsleeping I count myself lucky that none of my children have ever had sleep issues.  I know this is not the case for many parents.  My niece, for one, has struggled with sleep issues for years. It has been a constant source of anxiety and concern for her parents.  Not only has it affected her academic and social life but it has disrupted the entire family for well over two years.  So an article in today’s USA Today about the use of melatonin as a sleep aid for kids caught my eye.   Melatonin is a nutritional supplement available at pharmacies and health food stores and is promoted as an aid for travelers who have jet lag.  But for some parents, like those interviewed in this article, it is a miraculous remedy for kids who have a hard time getting to sleep.  While pediatricians are reluctant to recommend it, melatonin has seen a rise in poplularity among parents desperate for a remedy to their child’s sleepless nights.   It is not recommended for children under the age of 10 but, according to an analysis by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, melatonin supplements are safe if used for days or weeks.   Still, many of the studies on the benefits of melatonin have been conducted on children with autism or other developmental disabilities whose bodies don’t produce melatonin or do so erratically.  This has lead many doctors to conclude that melatonin should not be used for the average child who has the occasional problem falling asleep.  But, if you have a child who has insomnia or has chronic sleep issues it’s worthwhile to have a conversation with your pediatrician about the potential of melatonin.  Of course it’s wise to first try other strategies such as limiting TV time before bedtime. 

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