Sleep Aid Melatonin May Not Be Safe for Children

Rob Wipond
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Increasing numbers of children with sleep disorders are being treated with the hormone melatonin, but the medication has not been approved for such use anywhere in the world and is understudied and risky, according to a paper in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Author David Kennaway, Head of the Circadian Physiology Laboratory at the University of Adelaide, wrote that melatonin is “increasingly prescribed for children with sleep disorders despite the fact that (i) it is not registered for use in children anywhere in the world; (ii) it has not undergone the formal safety testing expected for a new drug, especially long-term safety in children; (iii) it is known to have profound effects on the reproductive systems of rodents, sheep and primates, as well as effects on the cardiovascular, immune and metabolic systems; and (iv) there is the potential for important interactions with drugs sometimes prescribed for children.”

In a press release Kennaway said, “The word ‘safe’ is used very freely and loosely with this drug, but there have been no rigorous, long-term safety studies of the use of melatonin to treat sleep disorders in children and adolescents.”

Warning on use of drug for children’s sleep (University of Adelaide press release, February 25, 2015)

Kennaway, David J. “Potential Safety Issues in the Use of the Hormone Melatonin in Paediatrics.” Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, March 1, 2015, n/a – n/a. doi:10.1111/jpc.12840. (Abstract)

10 COMMENTS

  1. There has to be a serious change in how we treat kids. They are not small adults – they are kids. They are not supposed to sit in class all day and stress about exams and run to after school activities. They are supposed to be kids – to have time to play, to develop their relationships with others, to spend time with their parents. 90% of problems with kids “mental health” would go away if we changed the way society operates in this insane economy.

  2. And of course I’m sure a journal like that publishes all sorts of garbage advocating the use of neuroleptic drugs in children as sleep aids. Bad parents use benadryl. Good parents use melatonin. Psychiatrists use seroquel.

    At least melatonin doesn’t cause permanent movement disorders and other known brain damages. I would really be interested to find out more about this study, its authors and the journal. Particularly, why this study was even done and published. It seems like an answer to a question nobody asked. Cant help but to think there’s an effort here to stigmatize the use of melatonin in medicine so that big pharma drugs will be used instead.

    • “(ii) it has not undergone the formal safety testing expected for a new drug, especially long-term safety in children”

      That’s because it’s not a drug. It’s among’st the most bio-natural substances on Earth and all mammals produce it naturally. It’s comparable to Amino Acids, and Vitamin D. Should we study the use of Vitamin D in children? Especially if the use of Vitamin D might be keeping them off of psych drugs?

    • In fairness, what was published was not a study — more of a survey paper/critique. He calls for more long-term study into the effects on children. On the face of it, sounds like a great idea.

      In the meantime, what are the long-term-studied-verified-safe alternatives for kids?

      *crickets*

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