CBS 4 Special Report: Parents turn to melatonin to help children struggling with bedtime

Special Reports

CBS 4 Special Report: Parents turn to melatonin to help children struggling with bedtime. 

Once it’s time for bed, it’s not always easy getting the kids on board.

Micah Gonzalez is a mother of a 7-year-old and turned to melatonin a few years ago to help her son Miles sleep at night. 

“I have a friend that’s a PA, so I talked to her,” said Gonzalez. “She said it’s actually very safe for them and I said, ‘We’ve just struggled so much to keep him asleep at night’.” 

Gonzales takes a 5 milligram tablet and breaks off a small piece, just over 1 milligram. She adds, “within 10 minutes he just says, ‘I’m ready to go to bed’.”

Turning to melatonin for help is something even doctors say is safe and can make a difference. 

“For the majority of patients, melatonin is actually a pretty good option if you don’t want to go straight to something that’s being prescribed,” said Dr. Adrian Agapito, a psychiatrist and the Chief of Behavioral Medicine at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. 

 Dr. Agapito says melatonin is a natural hormone that our pineal gland produces, but when children stay up late, that can effect its production. 

“People who go to sleep with the TVs on. Go to sleep with the tablets on. Go to sleep on the phones. They’re going to be producing less melatonin and they’re going to have an increased risk of sleeping difficulties,” Dr. Agapito said. 

The main side effects of taking melatonin include: fatigue, sleepiness and for some, headaches, according to Dr. Agapito.  He adds that it’s not recommended for children to take more than 5 milligrams. 

“It’s nice to have a medication that is normally produced by the body. [It] is over the counter, easily accessible, cheap and has a favorable side effect profile that they can take to regulate their sleep,” Dr. Agapito said. 

Gonzalez says she has never had to go up on her son’s dosage, adding that taking it during the school week has made a difference.

“He sleeps pretty much through the night. He very rarely wakes up. It’s definitely helped a lot,” Gonzalez said.

Even though melatonin is considered a safer alternative to prescription medication, Dr. Agapito adds that you can never underestimate a good night sleep.

“I think practicing good sleep hygiene; getting them on a regular sleep schedule might even negate the need of going to a medication like melatonin,” Dr. Agapito said.

If your child is still having sleeping difficulties after six months of using melatonin, Dr. Agapito recommends you reach out to a doctor to rule out any medical causes or mental illnesses. 

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