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Experts Warn Against Melatonin Use In Children

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University of Adelaide sleep researchers are warning parents and doctors against the use of the drug melatonin in children with sleep disorders.

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the body with the onset of darkness. It plays an important role in fine tuning people’s circadian rhythms, such as the timing of sleep onset, as well as other biological processes.

A paper recently published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, warns against melatonin supplement use in children because it might result in serious side effects later in life.

“Melatonin is registered in Australia as a treatment for primary insomnia only for people aged 55 years and over, but it’s easily prescribed as an ‘off label’ treatment for sleep disorders for children,” says Professor David Kennaway, Head of the Circadian Physiology Laboratory at the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute and author of the paper.

According to Professor Kennaway, extensive studies exist that show melatonin causes changes in multiple physiological systems including immune and metabolic systems.

The word “safe” is used too loosely and freely in regards to melatonin but no long-term safety studies of the use of melatonin to treat sleep disorders is yet to be done. Until then parents need to be cautious and another consideration is the interaction of melatonin and other medications.