Melatonin and our kids.

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Melatonin and our kids.

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We've touched on the topic of melatonin before (READ HERE), but recent findings suggest it's a more significant concern than we initially thought, particularly for our kids. 

Imagine, after a long day, all you wish for is a peaceful night's sleep for your little ones, and so you reach for what seems like a harmless solution: melatonin gummies. I mean, it’s labeled for kids, and it’s going to help them get the sleep they need. How could that be a bad idea? Well, what appears to be a quick fix might not be as safe as you think. 

In the past decade, there's been a staggering 530% increase in pediatric melatonin overdoses (LINK TO STUDY). This all stems from the shocking revelation that nearly 88% of melatonin gummy products are inaccurately labeled (READ MORE). Some contain up to 300% more melatonin than advertised on the package. 

But the concerns don't stop there. These studies have also uncovered the inclusion of substances like CBD and serotonin in many melatonin products. This issue arises from the lax regulatory standards for supplement companies, which aren't required to verify the accuracy of their product labels. This makes it crucial for parents to seek out supplements that have undergone third-party testing and certification, such as NSF Certified for Sport or Informed-Sport, to ensure what you're giving your child is both safe and accurately dosed.

Yikes—scary stuff. 

The surge in melatonin use among children in the last five years is alarming, with about 20% of kids under 14 now using it regularly (LINK TO STUDY). Many people might not realize that melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the brain in response to darkness. The long-term effects of artificially supplementing this hormone in children are still unknown. 

While no studies currently assess the long-term use of melatonin in children, some research hints at potential impacts on puberty and glucose metabolism. However, the extent of these risks remains largely unexplored. That said, intuitively, giving kids a hormone long-term just doesn’t seem like a great idea. 

Understanding how melatonin works in our bodies can shed light on why it's crucial to approach its use with caution. Produced throughout the day, melatonin levels rise in response to darkness, signaling our bodies that it's time to rest. However, introducing melatonin externally, especially in children whose natural hormone production and regulatory systems are still developing, could interfere with these natural processes.

If the body grows accustomed to getting melatonin from gummies, it may never figure out how to correctly produce the hormone itself. Does that mean we are setting up our kids for a lifetime of melatonin supplementation so they can sleep? Is that really what we want? And can this be a slippery slope that leads to more aggressive sleep aid use later in adulthood? 

As parents, we all know the struggle of sleepless nights and the lengths we'd go to ensure our children get the rest they need. Yet, before turning to melatonin, consider alternative strategies to promote healthy sleep patterns. Establishing a consistent bedtime routine, reducing screen time and exposure to bright lights before bed, avoiding food close to bedtime, and engaging in calming activities like reading a story or listening to soft music can all contribute to better sleep. Encouraging your child to write or draw before bed can also be a soothing activity that prepares them for a restful night.

The key takeaway? While melatonin might offer a temporary solution to sleep issues, it's essential to weigh the potential risks and explore natural methods to improve sleep hygiene before we start handing out gummies every single night. What could be a helpful tool today might not be the best idea for our children's long-term health and well-being.


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