Melatonin For Children

sleepless child

There are many clinical trials using synthetic melatonin for children with such health conditions as autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), chronic sleep onset insomnia (CSOI), intellectual disabilities, delayed dim light melatonin onset, and also for sleep induction for EEG recordings in children with severe behavior problems. The objective of these studies was to determine effectiveness and safety of melatonin use for such children.

The most common sleep problems in children with these conditions are delayed sleep onset, bedtime resistance, interrupted sleep, tiredness upon awakening and daytime sleepiness. Sleep disturbances have an impact on a child’s overall health, social functioning, academic performance and parental stress.

The pineal gland produces melatonin when we sleep and when our sleep is disturbed the amount of secreted melatonin is decreased. Clinical trials scientifically prove melatonin’s ability to raise glutathione levels, and we know that glutathione boosts the immune system. Thus, low melatonin levels lead to weakening of the immune system and a decline in overall health.

It is important to note that all studies were conducted in medical settings with close monitoring by doctors. It means that only children who had been diagnosed with these serious health conditions were participating. The use of melatonin for children who are healthy has not been studied and safety has not been assessed.

The dosages of melatonin for children in several studies that I retrieved from PubMed ranged anywhere from 0.1 mg to 10 mg, and the age of study participants varied from infants to 17 years old.

The results of these studies confirmed the effectiveness of melatonin for children with health conditions. The use of melatonin helped improve sleep onset, sleep duration and daytime behavior of almost all subjects. However, the studies were only short term, mostly up to 6 months, and the sleep problems often resumed after the end of melatonin administration forcing some of the patients to continue taking it. Reduction of dosages was advised for long term use.

The use of melatonin for children was considered well tolerated and relatively safe in all studies. The wording “relatively” most likely means that the positive results outweighed the risks for such children. Reported side effects suffered by some children were nausea at start of treatment, headaches, apathy and weight gain. Since the side effects were not experienced by the majority of children the conclusion was made that melatonin for children is generally safe.

These findings indicate that melatonin can be successfully used by children to treat diagnosed sleep problems associated with serious health conditions mentioned above. Dosages must be prescribed and children must be monitored by doctors.

But what to do if your child is healthy but every once in a while has trouble falling asleep, or enters a stage when playtime till 2 am is a new fun thing to do? We, as parents, know that all kids go through certain developmental stages when their seemingly established habits temporarily change, sometimes dramatically.

tart cherries, sour cherries Safe and natural melatonin for children can be found in tart (sour) cherries where this potent hormone and antioxidant is found in such high concentrations that it has a positive effect on health. A study has shown that Montmorency tart cherries have 13.5 ng of melatonin per 1 g (1,350 ng per 100 g).

One or two ounces of tart cherry juice concentrate made from Montmorency cherries (straight or reconstituted in water) can be safely used right before bedtime as a sleep aid for both healthy children and children with serious health problems (great for adults, too). Melatonin for children with serious health problems can be used after the high-dose synthetic melatonin treatments are over and a low maintenance dose is advised or desired. After all, our body knows how to metabolize natural melatonin much better than synthetic melatonin.

The study “Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality” published in European Journal of Nutrition in October 2011 concluded that “consumption of a tart cherry juice concentrate provides an increase in exogenous melatonin that is beneficial in improving sleep duration and quality in healthy men and women and might be of benefit in managing disturbed sleep”.

The study “Update on the use of melatonin in pediatrics” published in Journal of Pineal Research in January 2011 identified melatonin as an analgesic agent presumably related to its ability to release beta-endorphin with a possible use as an anesthetic agent in children. It means that tart cherry juice concentrate can also be used as a natural children’s pain reliever for minor pain.

sleeping child

What other foods with melatonin are there?

What foods are beneficial for the immune system?

More information on melatonin.

What is Glutathione (GSH)?

What are the best ways to raise Glutathione levels?

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Clinical trials were retrieved from PubMed where they can be found by PMID number:

Melatonin in autism spectrum disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
Rossignol DA, Frye RE.
PMID: 21518346

Update on the use of melatonin in pediatrics.
Gitto E, Aversa S, Reiter RJ et al.
PMID: 21029156

Sleep problems in the child with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: defining aetiology and appropriate treatments.
Weiss MD, Salpekar J.
PMID: 20839894

Sleep in children with autistic spectrum disorder.
Cortesi F, Giannotti F et al.
PMID: 20605110

Termination of short term melatonin treatment in children with delayed Dim Light Melatonin Onset: effects on sleep, health, behavior problems, and parenting stress.
van Maanen A, Meijer AM et al.
PMID: 21925946

Melatonin treatment for insomnia in pediatric patients with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Bendz LM, Scates AC.
PMID: 20028959

Melatonin for chronic sleep onset insomnia in children: a randomized placebo-controlled trial.
Smits MG, Nagtegaal EE et al.
PMID: 11292231

Evaluation of sleep, puberty and mental health in children with long-term melatonin treatment for chronic idiopathic childhood sleep onset insomnia.
van Geijlswijk IM, Mol RH et al.
PMID: 21340475

Melatonin for Sleep in Children with Autism: A Controlled Trial Examining Dose, Tolerability, and Outcomes.
Malow B, Adkins KW, McGrew SG et al.
PMID: 22160300

Detection and quantification of the antioxidant melatonin in Montmorency and Balaton tart cherries (Prunus cerasus).
Burkhardt S, Tan DX, Reiter RJ et al.
PMID: 11600041

Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality.
Howatson G, Bell PG, Tallent J et al.
PMID: 22038497


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