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Effects of melatonin on growing children and puberty.

Melatonin is used as a sleep aid, but long-term use may have some unintended consequences with the onset of puberty.

Posted  720 Views updated 4 months ago

Prolonged use of melatonin in infants and prepubertal children may cause some problems as they approach puberty. Exogenous melatonin is used to treat sleep disorders and sleep problems in children, adolescents and adults. Although most physicians readily recommend it for short-term use in children, using melatonin as a long-term sleep aid is not the best way to establish healthy sleep habits in the developing organism.

Melatonin is a hormone that our body naturally produces when we try to fall asleep. It begins to increase production at dusk and decreases at dawn. When a child has difficulty sleeping and begins to suffer from insomnia, melatonin can be a good short-term solution.

Insomnia is just one of the reasons why children may have difficulty sleeping, but there are other reasons as well.

-Invertebrate leg syndrome

-Anxiety

-Too early to go to bed.

All of these can also influence your child's inability to sleep. First, adjust your child's bedtime and explore other reasons why it may be difficult to find sleep before resorting to melatonin. Melatonin use can affect children's growth and puberty.
Melatonin may delay the onset of puberty.

Although melatonin is safe and approved for children, it appears to delay the onset of puberty. Not many human studies have been done to test the effects of puberty in children, but there have been several animal studies. A peer-reviewed article entitled "Can Prolonged Melatonin Administration to Prepubertal Children Affect the Onset of Puberty? A Clinician's Perspective," investigated the possibility of melatonin affecting puberty in children.

For obvious reasons, there have not been many clinical studies on how melatonin affects puberty in growing children. It is too risky to put children at risk for growth retardation for the sake of finding those answers. The best that can be done is to analyze the data from melatonin trials in animals. The PhD students have pored over numerous mammalian studies on puberty and melatonin.

In small studies, melatonin administration delayed the onset of puberty in rats, hamsters and sheep.  The researcher concluded that there is a small possibility that exogenous melatonin affects the onset of puberty in humans, but could not state this definitively. They stated that this topic is "understudied" and that more research is needed to draw more precise conclusions.
Melatonin is not the first choice.

 

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Photo by Sam K from Pexels

Boston Children's Hospital says parents should only turn to melatonin after a "thorough evaluation" and consultation with a physician. They advise giving only melatonin along with some behavioral therapy to help sleep habits. Experts recommend changing the child's bedtime, nightly checks when the child tries to fall asleep and rewarding the child when he or she stays in bed.

Introduce healthy sleep patterns along with melatonin intake. Maintain a nightly sleep schedule 7 nights a week. Remove electronic devices one hour before bedtime and keep them out of the bedroom. Wake your child every morning at a time that is convenient for him/her. Do not give melatonin to children under 3 years of age. Stiff sleep and nighttime awakenings are very normal and to be expected.

Melatonin should also be avoided if the lack of sleep is situational (new movements or times of stress). It is important to know that melatonin is routinely approved to help children sleep. Side effects are minimal and melatonin is generally safe for growing children. Prolonged use is not recommended.
Melatonin is necessary in some cases.

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Photo by Victoria Borodinova from Pexels

Although there are some real cautions and cautions against long-term use of melatonin in growing children, for some children it is necessary. Children diagnosed with autism or ADHD often have trouble sleeping. According to Spectrum News, up to 80% of children with autism have difficulty sleeping. Lack of sleep can interfere with a child's daily life, affecting their ability to learn, function and progress. The only solution is to get them to sleep more, and melatonin is sometimes the only way to do this.

A human study was conducted on children with autism that set out to find out if melatonin actually affected puberty in growing children.

-Studied 119 children between the ages of 2 and 17, most of them with autism, for 13 weeks.

-All those who took melatonin had improved sleep quality.

-The researchers followed 90 of these children who took melatonin for another two years.

-Their sleep was found to have improved, so their quality of life had also improved. However, there was no evidence of delayed puberty.

-The study was very small and the placebo group did not participate.

Melatonin may have an effect on childhood growth and puberty, but not enough is known. Melatonin is generally safe for short-term sleep disorders along with behavioral sleep.

 


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