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Ashley Greer PA-C
By Ashley Greer PA-C on February 23, 2024

Navigating Melatonin Use in Pediatric Sleep Management: A Guide for Healthcare Providers

In the realm of pediatric sleep management, melatonin has emerged as a popular yet contentious tool. As healthcare providers dedicated to the well-being of our pediatric patients, it's essential to understand both the potential benefits and risks associated with melatonin use. In this blog, we'll explore the latest recommendations and guidelines, along with practical insights to educate parents on the use of melatonin in children.

Understanding Melatonin:

Melatonin, a hormone naturally produced by the body's pineal gland, plays a crucial role in regulating sleep-wake cycles. While it's widely available over the counter as a supplement, its use in pediatric populations requires careful consideration.

Navigating Risks and Recommendations:

Melatonin is the second most common supplement used in children, after multivitamins. Recent data highlights concerning trends regarding melatonin use in children. From increased overdose cases to variability in product quality, we must be extremely cautious when using dietary supplements since they are not regulated by the FDA. A health advisory from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends treating melatonin as a medication, keeping it out of reach of children, and ensuring use only after consulting with a healthcare professional.

Selecting a supplement with a USP-verified mark indicates adherence to good manufacturing practices, providing assurance of quality and purity. While melatonin can be beneficial for sleep onset issues, it's not a cure-all for sleep problems. Moreover, melatonin supplements should not be viewed as a substitute for healthy sleep habits and behavioral interventions, which should be implemented for all patients struggling with sleep issues.

When to Consider Melatonin:

The American Academy of Neurology's 2020 practice guideline suggests considering melatonin for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who haven't responded to behavioral strategies. However, it's vital to start at a low dose of melatonin (1-3 mg) and consider gradually titrating up to a maximum dose of 10 mg under the guidance of a healthcare professional. There may also be some benefit for use in other developmental disorders, but the data is not yet clear. 

When considering melatonin as a tool in sleep management, it's essential to approach it with caution, informed by the latest guidelines and recommendations. By prioritizing safety, efficacy, and holistic approaches to sleep health, we can ensure the best outcomes for our young patients. Let's continue to navigate the complexities of pediatric sleep management with diligence and compassion, always placing the well-being of our patients at the forefront.

Want to learn more? Listen to "Melatonin Use in Kids" in February's episode of Primary Care RAP.

Published by Ashley Greer PA-C February 23, 2024
Ashley Greer PA-C