WHAT IS IT?
Melatonin is also known as 'the sleepy hormone.' It's a hormone that our bodies produce which helps us to fall asleep. Melatonin production increases at night to facilitate sleep and decreases as morning approaches to help us feel awake. Melatonin pills or synthetic melatonin increase the hormone concentration in the blood and help people to fall asleep more easily. Melatonin use has increased between 2004 and 2012 and is likely increasing now.
IS IT SAFE TO GIVE TO CHILDREN?
Several studies show that melatonin use can lead to a delayed onset of puberty. As if that wasn't bad enough, we are unsure of how else it can effect children as there haven't been many long-term studies to definitively state the effects of melatonin consumption.
WHAT'S THE ALTERNATIVE?
Teaching children good sleep habits remove the need for melatonin use. I suggest to all my clients the following:
1. Eliminate screen time for at least 1 hour before bed and naps to help the body produce sufficient amounts of melatonin to facilitate healthy sleep.
2. Darken that room! Make your child's room as dark as possible to aid in melatonin production. If you can see your hand in front of your face after the lights are off then it is not dark enough!
3. No caffeine consumption. I know you probably aren't giving your child coffee, however, caffeine is in chocolate as well. Be sure not to give your child chocolate before bed or naps.
4. Go outside. The less melatonin in the body during the day means more melatonin in the body at night. Sun exposure, even just for a couple of minutes during the day can help increase melatonin production at night.