Researchers who specialize in sleep at the University of Adelaide are cautioning parents and
doctors against giving melatonin to kids with sleep problems. According to them, Melatonin is a
hormone that is produced by the body with the onset of darkness and it plays a crucial role in
tuning people’s circadian rhythms such as sleep onset timing and other biological processes.
In a paper that they published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, head of circadian
psychology lab at the university , professor David Kennaway warns that giving melatonin
supplements to kids may cause serious side effects when the kids gets older.
“The use of melatonin as a solution for this condition is increasing and this is rather alarming”
said Prof Kennaway. “United States is the only state where melatonin is completely unregulated
and it is considered as a supplement rather than a regulated drug and this makes it readily
“If we take an example of Australia, melatonin is registered as a treatment for primary insomnia
and is meant to be taken only by aging persons from 55 years and above. However, it is easily
prescribed as an off label treatment for sleep problems in kids.”
According to professor Kennaway, there is extensive evidence from laboratory studies which
shows that melatonin can cause changes in various psychological systems including immune
system, cardio vascular, and metabolic systems as well as reproductive systems in animals.
Professor Kennaway said that melatonin is a registered veterinary drug used for changing the
seasonal patterns in a goat or a sheep, to make them more productive for the industry. If a doctor
gives such information to a parent before prescribing the drug to the kids, I am sure most parents
would think twice about allowing their kids to be given such a medication.” “The word ‘safe’ is
used very freely in this drug, but there has not been any rigorous, long-term study on its safety to
treat sleep disorders in kids.”
“There is a potential for melatonin to interact with other drugs that are commonly prescribed for
kids, but it is hard to know in the absence of clinical trials assessing its safety,” Said the
professor, who has been doing research on melatonin for the last 40 years. According to him,
these concerns have largely been ignored throughout the world, not only in the United States.
“If we consider the small advances that melatonin offers to the timing of sleep, and putting into
consideration what we know about how melatonin works in the body, we do not have to risk our
kids’ health and safety” he says.