Is It Safe to Give Your Kid Melatonin?

  • Medical Reviewer: Mahammad Juber S, MD
Medically Reviewed on 6/6/2022

Which kids need melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland below the brain and it controls your sleep and wake cycle. If your kid needs to reset their sleep cycle after travel or a vacation, a few days' use of melatonin is safe.
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland below the brain and it controls your sleep and wake cycle. If your kid needs to reset their sleep cycle after travel or a vacation, a few days' use of melatonin is safe.

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland below the brain. It controls your sleep and wake cycle. People commonly use melatonin to get over jet lag or to change their sleep cycle.  

Many children also have sleep difficulties. Should you give your kid melatonin? Is it safe to use this drug? Melatonin use in kids is growing and is effective and safe in most situations.

Melatonin doesn't actually put anyone to sleep. It's a natural hormone, and its levels rise in the evening. This puts you in a state of quiet wakefulness. In this state, it's easier to fall asleep.

Many children and teenagers have difficulty sleeping at night. Poor sleep causes several problems — daytime sleepiness, trouble concentrating in school, crankiness, obesity, headaches, high blood pressure (hypertension), and depression

Teenagers often have difficulty falling asleep in the evening. Even those who normally sleep well may have difficulty sleeping early when classes start up again after a long vacation. Teenagers need to sleep well to perform well in the day, though. You can give them melatonin for a few days to help them adjust their sleep cycle.

Disorders like autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and Down's syndrome are often associated with sleep disorders. More than half of children with these conditions may have difficulty falling asleep. Melatonin reduces the time needed to fall asleep and increases total sleep time.  

Why you shouldn't give your child melatonin

Neither Health Canada nor the US Federal Drug Administration (US FDA) has approved melatonin as a medication for any treatment. The use of melatonin remains unregulated and "off-label.".

Melatonin is sold as a supplement. Supplements are not as tightly regulated for quality as medicines. One study that tested 31 brands found that they contained much lower or higher amounts than written on the labels. Pharmaceutical-grade melatonin is more dependable, though.

Behavioral insomnia of childhood (BIC) is the most common reason for sleeping difficulties in childhood. These children have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Common behavioral causes of poor sleep are electronic device use at night, caffeine, alcohol, irregular bedtimes, and insufficient physical exercise. If your child is healthy and developing normally, you shouldn't give them melatonin.

Melatonin is not suitable for some children. If your child has a seizure disorder (like epilepsy), an autoimmune disorder, depression, diabetes, or high blood pressure, you shouldn't give them melatonin. Talk to your pediatrician if your child is on any medicines, to prevent drug interactions.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that melatonin should never be used as a substitute for good sleep routines. They also caution that there isn't enough research about the long-term use of melatonin. There is some concern about effects on children's growth and development, particularly around puberty.

Melatonin use in kids

Melatonin is quickly absorbed from the stomach. Your kid will have high blood levels an hour after taking the dose. These levels don't last long because the liver changes melatonin to an inactive form. Melatonin is available in tablets, liquids, and injections.

You should give melatonin to your child half to one hour before their bedtime. They should get their dose at the same time each day. Many children do well with doses of 0.5 or 1 milligram every evening. Some children need higher doses. Even children with ADHD don't need more than 3 to 6 milligrams a day.

Some tablets are specially made to release melatonin slowly through the night. Your child should swallow these tablets whole. If you crush the tablet, the effect may not last through the night.

If you're giving your child melatonin, you should do so regularly. Give the dose at the same time each day. Make sure to buy a new supply before you run out. If you have a liquid preparation of melatonin, you may need to keep it in the refrigerator. 

Adverse effects of melatonin

You may notice some adverse effects if you give melatonin to your kid:

Serious adverse effects are rare and include severe allergy, depression, fainting, bleeding, and dizziness.

Melatonin alternatives for kids

Good sleep routines are always the foundation of restful and adequate sleep. These methods may not be successful right away, but don't give up. Family sleep habits need consistency to be successful. Routines are valuable for kids and worth the trouble.

Good sleep hygiene 

Following good sleep habits benefits your child in several ways. It is better than dependence on medicine.

  • Establish regular bedtime and waking time.
  • Discourage naps during the day.
  • Serve them dinner two hours before bedtime.
  • Put them to sleep in their own bed every evening.
  • Get your child used to a dark room. 
  • Don't give your child caffeine-containing drinks like coffee, energy drinks, and sodas in the evening.

Consistent bedtime routine

Establish bedtime routines for your child. The routine will depend on the age of your child and personal preferences. It's important you encourage consistency, which will pay off in the long run as better sleep.

Screen-free evening

Your child should not use mobile phones, computers, or televisions for two hours before bedtime. The blue light from these devices affects the brain like daylight. The melatonin levels do not rise, and sleep is delayed.


The abbreviated term ADHD denotes the condition commonly known as: See Answer


Is it safe to give your kid melatonin? It has been in use for several years now, and known adverse effects are mostly minor. If your kid needs to reset their sleep cycle after travel or a vacation, a few days' use is safe. Children with neurodevelopmental disorders like ADHD and autism often have poor sleep. Melatonin daily helps them sleep well, but the safety of prolonged use is still being studied. If you decide to give it to your kid, talk to their pediatrician first. Try to order pharmaceutical-grade melatonin products, which are more carefully made.

Medically Reviewed on 6/6/2022

American Academy of Pediatrics: "Melatonin and Children's Sleep."

Boston Children Hospital: "Five things to know about melatonin for kids."

Canadian Family Physician: "Sleep-related melatonin use in healthy children."

John Hopkins Medicine: "Melatonin for Sleep: Does It Work?"

Journal of Translational Medicine: "Pediatric sleep disturbances and treatment with melatonin."

Medicines for Children: "Melatonin for sleep disorders."

National Health Service: "Melatonin-for sleep problems."