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Sleep society issues health advisory amid rise in melatonin use among kids

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September 22, 2022

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Key takeaways

  • The American Academy of Sleep Medicine is advising parents to talk to health care professionals about melatonin before giving it to children.
  • Previous data showed that melatonin ingestion increased 530% in the United States between 2012 and 2021.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has released an advisory encouraging parents to talk to health care professionals before giving their children melatonin or other sleep aid supplements.

“While melatonin can be useful in treating certain sleep-wake disorders, like jet lag, there is much less evidence it can help healthy children or adults fall asleep faster,” Muhammad Adeel Rishi, MD, FCCP, vice chair of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) Public Safety Committee, and a pulmonology, sleep medicine and critical care specialist at Indiana University Health Physicians, said in a press release. “The availability of melatonin as gummies or chewable tablets makes it more tempting to give to children and more likely for them to overdose.”

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The use of melatonin, frequently used as an over-the-counter sleep aid, has increased in adults and children in the US According to the NIH, melatonin use quintupled among adults from 1999 to 2018. Similar rises have occurred in children, resulting in widespread poisoning. The CDC identified 260,435 pediatric melatonin ingestions between 2012 and 2021. Of them, more than 94% were unintentional. Overall, data previously published in MMWR showed that the annual number of melatonin ingestions by children increased by 530%, from 8,337 in 2012 to 52,563 in 2021. Of the total incidents, 287 children required intensive care, five required mechanical ventilation and two died.

According to AASM, symptoms of a melatonin overdose can include irritability, headaches, and dizziness.

Since melatonin is regulated by the FDA as a dietary supplement, it has “less oversight,” according to the AASM. Research has shown that the content in melatonin supplements can vary widely.

Rishi said that instead of using melatonin as treatment for sleeping disorders, “parents should work on encouraging their children to develop good sleep habits, like setting a regular bedtime and wake time, having a bedtime routine and limiting screen time as bedtime approaches.”

AASM recommends that parents should keep melatonin out of reach of children. Before starting melatonin, AASM said that parents should discuss the decision to start melatonin use with health care professionals and follow a health care professional’s instruction on the dosage and timing. The advisory also states to use products with a “USP Verified Mark” for safer use.


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