Mighty Blog

Should you be giving melatonin to your kids? 

Getting a child or teen to go to sleep can be hard. There are so many reasons why – distractions, like phones, YouTube and gaming, or maybe it’s simply a child not wanting to go to bed due to fear of missing out on family fun. Whatever the reason, bedtime conflicts between parents and kids can be a significant stress on families and often lead to using supplements like melatonin.

What is melatonin?

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), “Melatonin is a natural hormone that helps us regulate our own sleep timing. Even though our body makes its melatonin in the brain, some people use extra melatonin to improve their sleep.”

Should kids be taking melatonin?

Melatonin has become a staple in many households to help kids and teens fall asleep. However, it is still important to be cautious when giving it to children or even just having it around the house.

Melatonin comes in many forms, such as tablets, capsules, liquid and now that it is available in gummy form with attractive packaging to children, concerns of accidental overdose are real possibilities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), emergency department (ED) visits for unsupervised melatonin intake in infants and children is on the rise. From 2019-2022, there were about 11,000 ED visits for unsupervised melatonin ingestion in kids 5 years old and younger, which makes up a little over 7% of all ED visits for unsupervised medication exposure in this age group.

The CDC also found that poison control centers across the United States received over 260,000 reports of kids ingesting melatonin from 2012-2021 and 94% of those were accidental. Of the patients that had to seek care at a health care facility, 14% of them were hospitalized and 1% required intensive care.

If you have melatonin supplements in the house, make sure they are out of reach to avoid your kids accidentally finding and eating them.

Creating a sleep routine

Every child will require different methods for regulating sleep, but most kids and teens just need a good and healthy sleep routine. Things to consider when creating a sleep routine are consistency, hours of sleep your child needs, screen time, food and drinks.

Consistency

Your child should have the same bedtime and wake time during both the weeknights and weekends. This gives them a consistent routine and their bodies will be trained to automatically get tired around the same time every day.

  • Make sure that the routine:
  • Isn’t too complicated
  • Doesn’t take too much time
  • It can be moved from your home to other locations (like during vacations or when visiting grandparents).

Hours of sleep for different ages

A healthy sleep schedule will vary depending on your child’s age and needs. Here are the hours you are aiming for each night:

  • Newborns (0-3 months) require 14-17 hours of sleep
  • Infants (4-11 months) require 12-15 hours of sleep
  • Toddlers (1-2) require 11-14 hours of sleep
  • Preschoolers (3-5) require 10-13 hours of sleep
  • Children (6-12) require 9-11 hours of sleep
  • Teens (13-18) require 8-10 hours of sleep

Find more tips on creating a healthy sleeping schedule here.

Screen time

One aspect that should be considered is the use of screens. Not only are bright screens sending a signal to the brain that it is morning, but they are also exciting and stimulating. To prepare for bedtime, it is recommended that all electronic devices be turned off at least 60 minutes before bedtime.

Food and drinks

Often times, kids sleep better with a bit of a snack, especially with protein before bed. Be cautious of how much fluids kids are drinking before bedtime, and kids under the age of 12 shouldn’t be consuming caffeinated beverages.

Hours of sleep for different ages

A healthy sleep schedule will vary depending on your child’s age and needs. Here are the hours you are aiming for each night:

  • Newborns (0-3 months) require 14-17 hours of sleep
  • Infants (4-11 months) require 12-15 hours of sleep
  • Toddlers (1-2) require 11-14 hours of sleep
  • Preschoolers (3-5) require 10-13 hours of sleep
  • Children (6-12) require 9-11 hours of sleep
  • Teens (13-18) require 8-10 hours of sleep

Find more tips on creating a healthy sleeping schedule here.

Screen time

One aspect that should be considered is the use of screens. Not only are bright screens sending a signal to the brain that it is morning, but they are also exciting and stimulating. To prepare for bedtime, it is recommended that all electronic devices be turned off at least 60 minutes before bedtime.

Food and drinks

Often times, kids sleep better with a bit of a snack, especially with protein before bed. Be cautious of how much fluids kids are drinking before bedtime, and kids under the age of 12 shouldn’t be consuming caffeinated beverages.

Dr. Gigi Chawla on WCCO

Dr. Gigi Chawla, chief of general pediatrics, discusses how often kids should be taking melatonin, how much to take and the age when kids can start taking melatonin.

Mai Songsawatwong