Is It Okay to Give Kids Melatonin Every Night?

The negative impact of melatonin on kids’ health remains more of an amorphous possibility than a concrete inevitability, which partly explains why so many well-informed parents and caregivers continue to ignore or downplay negative headlines. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes somewhat opaquely that “there are concerns about how it might affect a child’s growth and development” when used at length. “We just don’t know for sure what the impact is, and that’s the problem,” says Lauren Hartstein, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado Boulder Sleep and Development Lab, who adds that there’s a shortage of research on the long-term effects of regular melatonin use by children and that the research that does exist has been fairly inconclusive. Participants in a 2018 study reported delayed puberty after taking the hormone for an average of seven years as children. In animal studies, melatonin has been shown to suppress the secretion of gonadotropin-releasing hormone, which stimulates the production of other hormones that help the ovaries and testicles mature and function. The body’s nocturnal secretion of melatonin tends to drop throughout childhood, paralleling the progression of sexual maturity. Raise the former, and you may be slowing the latter. And a 2022 study concluded that “whether or not melatonin could play an important role in the pubertal onset in humans is still an open question.”

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Release Date: 
06/24/2024 - 1:00pm
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