Back to blog

Melatonin for Kids: What Parents Need To Know

Melatonin for Kids: What Parents Need To Know

Guest Post By Genevieve Kane, MSN, RN

Life as a parent is both rewarding and exhausting. In a perfect world, kids would have fun-filled days with plenty of activity, settle into their bedtime routine, and drift peacefully off to sleep at an age-appropriate hour. Unfortunately, bedtime isn’t so simple for many, and kids often struggle to fall and stay asleep.

There are several strategies to help little ones drift off to sleep. Parents may use methods such as white noise, blackout curtains, soothing essential oils like lavender, a warm bath before bed, and supplements such as melatonin. While it can be tempting to solve bedtime with a supplement like melatonin, there are several things parents need to know about melatonin for kids.

Melatonin for Kids: What Parents Need To Know

What is Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone. Your body naturally makes melatonin in response to darkness. Melatonin regulates your body’s circadian rhythm — your 24-hour internal clock and helps your body know that it is time to sleep. Too much light at night, like light from a screen, can impact appropriate melatonin production.

Short-acting melatonin is what is typically found in the melatonin gummies for kids. It can help children fall asleep more quickly. However, it does not help children stay asleep overnight. There are longer-acting melatonin supplements available to help individuals stay asleep longer. However, these are typically found in pill or capsule form. Most young children can’t safely swallow these pills or capsules.

While melatonin for kids is most widely known for its role in sleep, it has other functions in the body, too. However, these roles still need to be better understood.

Melatonin for Kids

Safety of Melatonin for Kids

If you are considering melatonin for your child, it's essential to understand how to offer this supplement safely. The Food and Drug Association (FDA) regulates supplements like melatonin in the United States. However, this regulation is different and less strict than the FDA’s regulation of prescription and over-the-counter medications. In other countries, melatonin is a prescription medication.

A 2023 study analyzed 25 different melatonin gummy products. 22 of the 25 gummies were inaccurately labeled, and only three melatonin gummy products contained a dose of melatonin within 10% of the stated amount on the label. Some products contained significantly more melatonin than the amount listed on the label.

Taking too much melatonin can be dangerous. Calls to U.S. Poison Control Centers regarding melatonin have increased by tens of thousands over the last decade, and children under age 5 represent the largest increase in hospitalizations related to melatonin use.

How to Safely Give Melatonin to Kids

The key takeaway with safety is that the dose on the bottle may not be what is in your melatonin supplement for your child. And just because an item is marketed as all-natural does not necessarily make it safe.

However, there are several reasons a parent may choose to use melatonin for kids. Situations where melatonin may be helpful include children with:

  • Insomnia
  • Neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism or ADHD
  • A need for short-term sleep help (i.e., jet lag, earlier bedtime after a school break, etc.)

If you are looking to use melatonin with your child, reach out to your child’s healthcare provider for the appropriate dosing and timing. They will likely recommend starting with a small dose first and only increasing it as needed.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also recommends using behavioral interventions with melatonin for kids. For example, blue light from screens can prevent melatonin production. So, helping your child avoid screen time at least an hour before bed can help their bodies naturally create melatonin.

Routines and consistency can also help a child wind down and understand that it is time to sleep.

Treat melatonin like any medication if you use it in your home. Safe medication use means storing melatonin in a cool, dry place, out of reach of children. Kids' melatonin gummies taste yummy; some kids may view them as candy. So, keeping your melatonin for your kids secure to prevent an overdose is essential.

Melatonin for Kids

Looking for more information on kids and sleep? You’ll find these helpful: 

Key Takeaways Before Using Melatonin for Kids

Healthy sleep habits are crucial to both parent and child well-being. A child not sleeping well often impacts their parents' sleep, too! Melatonin can be a valuable tool to help a child fall asleep.

However, if you are considering giving your child melatonin, it is essential to offer this supplement safely. Speak to your child’s healthcare provider first to determine the appropriate dose. Your healthcare provider may also have recommended brands of melatonin for kids they trust to offer a truthful dose.

Next, combine melatonin use with behavioral interventions, too. Limit screen time before bed and establish a consistent bedtime routine with the melatonin use. Ideally, melatonin for your child is a short-term intervention to help get back on track with bedtime.

While short-term use of melatonin for kids is generally considered safe, there is limited data about long-term use. There may also be side effects, such as morning sleepiness, and melatonin may interact with a child's other medications.

However, there may be situations where long-term melatonin use for kids is appropriate. For example, in a child with autism who struggles to go to sleep, it may be appropriate to use melatonin long-term. 

The key takeaway is to seek advice from a trusted medical professional, such as your local pharmacist or child’s regular healthcare provider, before giving your child melatonin. They can guide you on what is appropriate and safe for your child’s needs. And if your child is struggling with sleep, hopefully, they are back to a whole night’s rest in no time!

Genevieve Kane, MSN, RN, is a mother of four and a registered nurse with a background in pediatrics. When she's not working, you can find her cooking up tasty family dinners or keeping up with her kids on a hiking trail in her home state of Colorado.

A clear nose means better sleep.

The Nozebot is a battery-powered suction device designed to clear nasal congestion in babies and children.

Buy now

Sign up for our newsletter

Enter your email to receive special updates and offers from Dr. Noze Best.