Melatonin is a natural hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. Its role is to help sleep and regulate sleep time. Therefore, melatonin levels rise at night as it gets dark, and then gradually fall with sunrise. Speed up sobriety.
But this natural cycle is disrupted in some people, especially children, and it is considered a disease children sleep It's a nightmare for their parents, who endure the ordeal in the hope that the situation will improve over time, or by introducing some nutritional and behavioral changes, before turning to a doctor.
Melatonin: nutritional supplement or drug?
Melatonin has become popular in global markets over the past five to ten years, and a niche market for products aimed at children (gummies, sweetened syrups and flavors) has flourished on the Internet.
The licensing status of melatonin varies by country and is considered a nutritional supplement in most of the world, but is only available in Japan, Australia, the UK and the EU after the European Medicines Agency approved its use in 2018. Available by prescription. For the treatment of sleep disorders in children with neurological and psychological disorders. only.
According to the Statsta 2023 report, the United States and East Asian markets are the largest consumers of sleep treatment drugs, while the Arab market is still in the growth stage, and melatonin has become popular in Arab pharmacies and electronic markets without a prescription.
The free spread comes amid warnings from the Arab Food and Drug Administration and pediatricians against taking melatonin without a direct recommendation from a doctor, as well as company sales representatives sending a message to a Facebook special for mothers of children with autism and ADHD. Arab groups spread the word, advocating over-the-counter melatonin supplementation.
There are currently no statistics on the prevalence of melatonin use among children in Arab countries, but a comparison of the prevalence of the two modes can be made. The first model includes “melatonin” under the heading of nutritional supplements, while the second limits it to requiring a prescription. .
U.S. newspapers published the results of a new study published in mid-November by the University of Colorado, which showed that about 1 in 5 U.S. school-age children and teenagers take melatonin to sleep, and some parents regularly supplement melatonin. For preschoolers…
Therefore, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that parents consult a physician before giving melatonin or any nutritional supplement to children, especially given the lack of evidence that it is effective as a supplement for treating insomnia in healthy children.
On the other hand, a Dutch study estimated the prevalence of melatonin use among school-age children in Eastern Europe at 6%, suggesting that 1 in 17 children may be taking melatonin at least once a week.
Is melatonin safe for children?
There are currently no scientific studies confirming the effectiveness of long-term use of melatonin or its side effects. However, a Swedish study that lasted from 2016 to 2019 confirmed the prevalence of continued melatonin treatment in children aged 6 to 12 years for more than 3 years, even dividing the dosage of melatonin they took. Increases of 50% and 100%.
Another problem with the widespread use of children's melatonin supplements sold online is the lack of control over their production in countries that classify it as a nutritional supplement. In 2017, Canadian researchers examined a sample of “melatonin” supplements produced by 31 different companies, equivalent to 71%. Across the trade names of melatonin supplements, they found that the percentage of the active ingredient, melatonin, ranged from 27 to 478 percent of the percentage stated on the label, and they observed the greatest variability in the active ingredient in children's gums.
A quarter of the samples also contained the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is used to treat neurological disorders and is considered a drug control ingredient.
The Centers for Disease Control revealed that between 2012 and 2021, the proportion of children taking melatonin supplements increased to 530%.
Moms need a solution
Sleep problems are complex for children with neurological disorders such as autism, attention deficit disorder, and ADHD, who suffer from sleep disturbances into their teens and possibly beyond.
Asma was one of the mothers of children on the autism spectrum interviewed by Al Jazeera. Asma's child had trouble sleeping since she was 4 years old until a neurologist recommended she reduce her melatonin dosage, so she consulted several doctors. Since the drug does not contain addictive ingredients, Asma She confirmed to Al Jazeera that her child had a positive experience taking “melatonin” 3.5 years ago, but as the effect declined, doctors increased the dosage.
However, Sama, who is the mother of a child with autism spectrum disorder, did not take melatonin supplements long-term because the effects were short-lived and required frequent dose increases, prompting her private physician to replace them with melatonin supplements. Another drug.
While “Sarah” confirmed to Al Jazeera that she had consulted her child's doctor about the effectiveness of “melatonin” after reading reviews from mothers and their experiences with taking the miracle pill, the doctor denied the child's need, Especially since she responded to “Sarah's” strict rules, which included forbidding the child to sleep during the day and practicing sports during the day, which guaranteed good results with 3 months of regularity.
However, behavioral changes were not enough to improve the quality of sleep for Zahia, who has impulsive movement disorder, and the child continued to suffer from insomnia, especially since Zahia was extremely afraid of her child taking any unnecessary medication, even after a doctor ’s advice until she underwent surgery. The child received the correct medical diagnosis and her insomnia decreased without the use of melatonin.
In response, Harvard Magazine published a set of tips for mothers before using melatonin, including:
- Even if your child didn't sleep well the night before, avoid sleeping during the day.
- No screen time two hours before bed.
- Do not sit or play on the bed during the day.
If you decide to use melatonin, choose a USP certified product to ensure its quality.