The American Academy of Sleep Medicine issued a health advisory last year, urging parents to exercise caution and consult a doctor before administering melatonin to their children.

Melatonin’s Popularity

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Melatonin, a hormone produced in the brain that regulates sleep cycles, has become a staple in many American households. Harvard Health notes it as one of the most common supplements given to children in the US. 

Dietary Supplement Status

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Unlike in several countries where melatonin is classified as a drug, in the US, it’s considered a dietary supplement and can be purchased without a prescription.

Jama Pediatrics Study

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A recent study published in the JAMA Pediatrics journal sheds light on this trend.

Age-Specific Trends

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Researchers spoke to parents of 993 children aged one to 14 and discovered a significant uptick in melatonin use, particularly among younger age groups. 18% of children aged five to nine now use melatonin as a regular sleep aid.

Study Reveals Patterns in Melatonin Consumption Across Age Groups

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While melatonin can offer a short-term solution for sleep issues, the study uncovered a use pattern. Preschoolers were found to be taking the supplement for a median of 12 months, Elementary school children for 18 months, and pre-teens for 21 months.

Jama Pediatrics Acknowledges Limitations in Nationwide Representativeness

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JAMA Pediatrics was quick to say that this study, while informative, may not fully represent nationwide trends due to its relatively small sample size.

Sleep Aid Trends

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The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, in an online survey conducted earlier this year, found that approximately 46% of parents have given melatonin to children under 13 to aid sleep. 

Parental Patterns

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Fathers were likelier than mothers to administer the supplement, and younger parents were more inclined to use it.

530% Surge in Reports of Melatonin Ingestion in Children From 2012 to 2021

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Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals a substantial 530% increase in reports of melatonin ingestion in children from 2012 to 2021. 

Accidental Ingestion

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Most cases were accidental; over 84% of the children involved showed no symptoms. However, 1% of reported cases led to children being admitted to intensive care.

Quality Control Issues

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A 2017 study discovered discrepancies between the actual dose of melatonin in supplements and the amount stated on the packaging label.

Limited Understanding of Long-Term Effects of Melatonin on Children

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This inconsistency poses a potential risk to children’s health, as the hormone’s effects remain largely uncharted territory, especially in the long term.

Mild Side Effects

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Mild side effects such as daytime sleepiness, headache, nausea, and dizziness have been reported, but the long-term implications remain unclear. 

American Academy of Sleep Medicine Recommends Treating Melatonin Like Medication

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The American Academy of Sleep Medicine emphasizes the importance of treating melatonin as any other medication, recommending that parents keep it out of reach of children and consult with a pediatric health professional before use.

Holistic Approaches

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Health experts caution that addressing sleep problems in children may be better managed through changes in schedules, habits, or behaviors rather than relying on melatonin. 

An Escalating Trend

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As the trend of melatonin use among US children continues to escalate, experts and parents are calling for the need for thorough research, accurate labeling, and responsible administration.

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The post American Academy of Sleep Medicine Issues Health Advisory as US Parents Increasingly Use Melatonin for Children’s Sleep Issues first appeared on Thrifty Guardian.

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