Ask dr.heather: Can I give my child melatonin to help them sleep?

By Kid Kritics |

      This is a very good question that inspired me to write a post about sleep, the pineal gland and melatonin.

      Melatonin is released from the pineal gland when darkness is sensed by the retina of the eye. Melatonin will initiate sleep. Taking a store bought melatonin ( not natural – synthetic) has been very helpful for adults with jet leg and the occasional sleepless night. However, there is no long term research that would suggest this is a safe supplement to take regularly. Therefore with children, I would most definitely advise against the use of it unless you are working with a doctor and it seems to be the best treatment plan. Rarely will side effects be seen but there has been some note of them ( seizures, hyperactivity, nightmares, constipation) which need to be considered.

      My thoughts are to begin a night time routine that is supportive to our body’s natural rhythm.  Some of the following approaches can be very helpful in overcoming the night time stress of falling asleep.

      • Begin creating a night time routine about an hour before the desired bedtime. This would include no electronics ( tv, computer, video games).
      • Choose a relaxing cd ( I recommend Indigo Dreams by Stress Free kids) that will only be played before bed.
      • Have a snack ( tryptophan rich – see previous post) and a some sleep time tea ( chamomile). Avoid any stimulating foods ( caffeine, sugar or chocolate).
      • Take a warm bath or shower.
      • Do magic socks ( see video). We LOVE hydrotherapy in our family. It’s simple and effective.
      • Spray a lavender essential oil mixture ( or mix a few different oils)  on bedding.
      • Keep lighting low in room after bath.
      • Do some light reading then lights out. The cd maybe played at this time too.

      If none of this works, make an appointment with your son’s pediatrician and discuss his sleeping habits. They may have other suggestions or may direct you to a sleep expert.

      Thanks for the question and good luck!

      Please let me know if you have any health questions  as I am more than happy to answer them for you! Contact me at:

      Be well,


      Dr. Heather Manley, who in 2001 received her medical degree from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon, is a practicing physician whose primary interest is preventative healthcare for families. She is the author of Human Body Detectives, her children’s educational series of story-telling books, ebooks, and iphone/ipad apps. She also promotes wellness and naturopathic healthcare on her website She lives on the Big Island of Hawaii with her husband and two daughters, and is currently at work on the next Human Body Detectives adventure.

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