What Is a Safe Melatonin Dosage for Kids?
written by/ September 22, 2022
Melatonin as a sleep aid is becoming increasingly popular, leaving many parents wondering whether this hormone really is beneficial to children with sleep problems, and most importantly—is it safe?
In this article, we’ll discuss the indications for giving melatonin, the safe melatonin dosage for kids, along with its effects on children’s health.
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone produced by our brain, whose level sharply increases in the evening to give our body a signal it’s time to rest and sleep.
Is Melatonin Safe for Kids?
As a supplement, melatonin is not regulated by the FDA, which means it cannot be FDA-approved for indications. However, based on the research data up to now, melatonin is well-tolerated and safe for most people, even in high doses.
It was suggested and later demonstrated that melatonin supplementation could be helpful for some conditions associated with sleep disorders. Namely, children with medical conditions such as autism spectrum disorders, atopic dermatitis, asthma, and ADHD could be considered candidates for melatonin supplementation.
On the other hand, there is limited data for melatonin use in children without health problems or those with sleep issues unrelated to the abovementioned disorders.
Nevertheless, if you’re thinking of introducing melatonin to your child or adolescent, make sure to discuss it with your pediatrician or a sleep expert first. Also, bear in mind that you can’t use melatonin as a sleep aid to force your child to go to sleep!
How Much Melatonin Is Safe for Kids?
Melatonin dosage recommendations for children depend on age and underlying health problems. Generally, the dosage for small children is lower than the standard dose of around 5 mg/day.
That said, it’s always better to start with the lowest possible dose and increase gradually until achieving efficacy. Here are the recommended melatonin dosages by age and weight:
- Preschool (3-5 years or under 88 lbs): 1–3 mg daily
- Elementary and adolescents (6-19 years or over 88 lbs): up to 5 mg daily
Giving melatonin pills to children under three years old is not recommended.
If your child has been approved for melatonin supplements by the pediatrician, you can follow the recommended doses, and it’s best if they’re taken 90 minutes before bedtime. The doses may vary individually for other conditions and a combination of conditions.
On that note, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that even 0.5 or 1 mg of melatonin for kids can be sufficient for children with light sleep problems.
Melatonin Side Effects in Kids
As we mentioned, melatonin is a hormone naturally produced in the body. In fact, children’s melatonin plays an important role in the sleep-wake cycle, similar to that of adults.
Therefore, its supplementation is justified only after you have applied all other appropriate sleep practices.
However, if you do decide to supplement your child with melatonin, you can expect certain side effects. Some of the spotted side effects of melatonin use in children are:
- Mood swings
- Low blood pressure
A study on the effect of melatonin on 94 children with chronic sleep onset insomnia and ADHD found no adverse effects on child development, even after long-term use of the hormone.
However, a CDC report from June 2022 shows a staggering 530% increase in pediatric melatonin ingestions over the last decade. In most cases (84.4%), the children went by without any symptoms. However, two fatal cases were reported from a total of 260,435.
You should also be aware of the possible interference of melatonin with other medications, supplements, or herbs. In case your child is taking any of these, consult your pediatrician before introducing melatonin.
What to Consider Before Giving Kids Melatonin
The decision to give melatonin should be made by parents and pediatricians together. As a supplement that is not regulated or approved, melatonin should be given to children only when other alternatives have been tried.
Also, keep in mind that children metabolize meds and supplements differently from adults, and some supplements may not be effective in children as they are in adults. Before giving melatonin, you can try other medications, such as antihistamines, valerian, etc.
Finally, minor adjustments to bedtime can make a difference. Following a consistent bedtime routine, keeping screens at bay (particularly in the evening), and ensuring children get healthy meals and proper physical activity during the day could be a healthy alternative to melatonin for teens and small children as a sleep aid.
We all know how important sleep is, and every parent wants to provide a restful night for their child. If all the usual sleep tips fail, in some cases, melatonin supplementation as a sleep aid is an appropriate option.
If you and your child are just beginning to explore the benefits of melatonin use, it’s vital to know when and how to supplement melatonin safely while trying to reach the desired effects.
Can you give 2-year-olds melatonin?
It’s not recommended to give melatonin to a healthy child under the age of three with typical development. Although toddlers may have behavioral issues, including difficulties falling asleep, they are accepted as natural.
If sleep problems are associated with medical conditions, it’s better to try melatonin alternatives.
Can a child take 10 mg of melatonin?
The recommended daily dose for melatonin is up to 5-6 mg. 10 mg is high, even for adults. Because there are not enough studies on the long-term effects of melatonin and its different doses, it’s better to give up to 5 mg of melatonin daily to avoid toxicity.
What happens if a kid has too much melatonin?
Ingesting too much melatonin may result in prominent side effects requiring medical attention. Rarely, melatonin poisoning may need hospitalization and lead to fatal outcomes.
In line with this, it’s essential to know the proper melatonin dosage for kids if it’s been prescribed to your child, and also be aware of the side effects so you know what to expect and when to seek medical help.