Melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland controls the circadian cycle of a human body. It is also produced synthetically and is used for treating sleep disorders such as insomnia in children. Short-term use of melatonin has not proven harmful and effects of its long-term use are uncertain. Though its side effects are not very common but some cases have been reported where children faced side effects such as drowsiness, bedwetting, nightmares, irritation after melatonin dosage.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone that is secreted by the pineal gland of a human brain. It controls the biological cycle or in other words, the sleep-wake cycle of our bodies. The average sleep wake cycle of a human contains 8 hours of sleep at night and 16 hours of work during the day. Mostly melatonin level escalate at late evening when the sun sets and stay elevated for the night, they start dropping in the morning as the day breaks causing the person to wake up.
Environment also influences the regulation of melatonin in a human body. For instance, the body may produce melatonin earlier during winters because the days are short and it gets dark early. It rises in response to darkness. Along with external light, certain foods that contain melatonin cause the person to sleep. Melatonin hormones are also produced synthetically and are available at the drugstores without prescription. They are available in many forms, as pills, lozenges, liquid and chewable.
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Common Uses of Melatonin in Kids
Melatonin is used to adjust the circadian rhythm. It boosts the immune system and also functions as an antioxidant. It also helps with other health concerns such as:
Insomnia is a condition in which a child faces problems while falling and staying asleep. A certain amount of dose of melatonin, if taken thirty minutes or two hours prior to bedtime might help a child in falling asleep easily. According to certain studies, it reduces the time a child takes in falling asleep.
Autism is a developmental and neurological disorder that begins in early childhood. In children with autism, sleep problems are very common. Some children with autism experience decreased secretion of melatonin. Studies have shown an improvement in children after melatonin dosing prior thirty minutes or an hour to bedtime.
Sleep disorders with blind children
It had often been reported that the blind children face a lot of problem in sleeping and staying asleep. This is probably because the natural light that regulates the generation of melatonin cannot be perceived by them. Oral doses of melatonin have helped in maintaining the sleep wake cycle in children.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
70% of the children with this disorder can face sleep problems which can result in attention issues. Sleep problems may include sleepiness during daytime, abnormal sleep-wake cycle or difficulty in falling asleep. Melatonin can help children fall asleep quickly.
Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder
This disorder is usually faced due to decreased production of melatonin or a deficiency of it at where the natural sleep period of a child is shifted later than the schedule demands. It can lead to morning drowsiness and can affect a child’s daily activities. According to research, a regular intake of melatonin for up to four weeks can help improve sleep for it reduces the amount of time taken to fall asleep and also helps in advancing the sleep onset time.
Is Melatonin Safe for Children?
It is likely to say that melatonin is safe for used if it is taken for a short-period of time, it’s side effects are not very common. But its safety had not been ascertained for long-term use in the studies. Children who have trouble in falling asleep are given doses of melatonin by their parents but it must be kept in mind that the doses should be given on the prescription of a medical professional.
Insomnia and other sleeping disorders in children should be evaluated by the medical sleep specialists first. Many studies have been done on the usage of melatonin and some questions still exist about melatonin’s long-term effects and its usefulness.
11 Awful Melatonin Side Effects for Children
Melatonin is considered appropriate and useful for children in some cases but pediatricians normally do not recommend it right away and prefer the parents to create healthy and natural sleep environment for children. Melatonin can impede a child’s adolescent development. It also affects a female’s menstrual cycle. The common side effects of melatonin include
A rapid change in the brain’s normal electrical activity is known as a seizure. An increase in the seizure activity has been noticed in children in some studies. It is more common in case of children who have a neurological disorder.
Some children have reduced melatonin clearance. The effect might still prevail in a child even if it is taken during the evening before bedtime. It is reported in case of old people and infants.
Melatonin intake allows calm and deep sleep for children who had been sleep deprived. The state of sleep might prevent the young children who had been recently trained for toilet to wake up to the urge of urination. This is a side effect observed when the child starts taking melatonin. After sometime, when he adjusts to the sleep cycle, this issue subsides.
For the child experiences deep sleep after the intake of melatonin, he might get nightmares triggered by the past events. He might wake up all of a sudden, afraid and crying.
During the first few days of intake, a child might show signs of irritability and agitation because of the new sleep cycle he had to adjust to. This issue also subsides after a certain period of time.
A child may experience sleepwalking episodes after the doses of melatonin. According to studies, it is a result of the deep sleep melatonin allows.
A few people claim to have constipation after the intake of melatonin.
Melatonin increases the risk of diabetes in children.
Some children feel nauseous when taking melatonin to adjust their sleep wake cycle.
Headache is another reported side effect of melatonin in children. It is probably due to the change in circadian cycle.
It is another reported side effect of melatonin in children.
It can hence be concluded that melatonin is useful and helps regulating the sleep wake cycle. Not many side effects have been reported by the short term use of melatonin and effects of the long term use of it had not been determined. However some awful side effects have been claimed in children. Instead of depending upon melatonin right away, parents should try adjusting the circadian cycle of their children naturally.