Melatonin for Kids: Dos and Don’ts for Parents

Understanding what melatonin does may help you decide if it’s safe

Between 15% and 25% of children and adolescents have trouble falling and staying asleep. These common sleeping woes have prompted many parents to look to natural sleep aids, including melatonin.

The use of melatonin supplements has increased among all age groups. It's now the second most common natural product given to children, behind multivitamins. While melatonin is generally considered safe for the short term, little is known about the long-term effects of the supplement.

This article discusses safety information about melatonin and kids, dosage recommendations, and alternative methods for improving sleep in kids.

A woman holding a little girl at bedtime

Blend Images - Inti St Clair / Getty Images

Popularity of Melatonin

Research has found that the sales of melatonin in the United States increased by 150% between 2016 and 2020.

Melatonin Safety in Children: Knowns and Unknowns

When it comes to the safety of melatonin use in children, there seem to be more unknowns than knowns.

Most research has shown that giving kids melatonin for a short period (three months or less) is relatively safe. But there’s not enough data to show that using the supplement for longer is safe or effective.

Most studies and guidelines on melatonin use in kids have focused on children with other conditions, such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). There’s limited research on using the supplement in children without these conditions.

Safety Concerns

One safety concern is toxicity. Reports of melatonin poisoning have increased in recent years. There were more than 260,000 reports of child poisonings involving melatonin from 2012 to 2021. Most of these children recovered, but two died, and others needed hospital care.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine issued a health advisory on the use of melatonin in children and adolescents. It warned that because supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), their contents can vary widely.

In one study, melatonin amounts ranged from less than half to more than 4 times what was stated on the label. The chewable melatonin tablets seemed to have the most inconsistent amounts of melatonin. 

Additionally, some of the studied melatonin products contained other substances requiring prescriptions. One study tested 31 different melatonin supplements and found that 26% of the products contained serotonin, a hormone that can cause harmful effects on children.

While the long-term consequences of using melatonin in children and adolescents are unknown, there’s some concern that the hormone could affect a child’s growth and development.

Dosing and Frequency

There are no specific guidelines on how much melatonin kids should take. Parents should consult a pediatric healthcare professional who can recommend appropriate doses and timing for sleep disturbances.

Selecting a Melatonin Product

When selecting a melatonin product, parents should select one with a USP Verified Mark for safer use.

Healthcare providers will always recommend starting with the lowest dose of melatonin possible and then increase it only if necessary. A low dose, 0.5 milligrams (mg) or 1 mg, taken 30 to 90 minutes before they go to sleep, typically works well with children. Always speak with a healthcare provider about the right dose for your child.


Melatonin comes in a variety of forms for children, including:

  • Liquids
  • Gummies
  • Chewables
  • Capsules
  • Tablets

Potential Side Effects

Many children don't experience side effects when taking melatonin. However, some potential side effects of melatonin include:

Melatonin can interact with other medicines that children take. It's important to talk to your child's healthcare provider before starting on this supplement, especially if they take other medications.

Before Trying Melatonin

Before starting children on melatonin supplements, speak with a pediatric healthcare provider. Many sleep troubles can be better managed with proper sleep hygiene instead of melatonin use.

Kid-Friendly Melatonin Alternatives

Some alternatives to melatonin supplements include medications. Antihistamines relieve allergies but may also cause drowsiness. You should talk to a healthcare provider before trying an antihistamine for sleep.

There are also sleep medications a healthcare provider can prescribe. These drugs are typically used in adults but can also be helpful for children. However, about 80% of people report drowsiness and other lingering next-day side effects after taking a sleep aid.

Sleep Hygiene

Good sleep hygiene is also vital for children and adolescents. Many kids respond to changes in routine and other strategies that can prompt a healthy sleep environment. Some general tips include:

  • Follow a bedtime routine: A typical nightly routine may include taking a warm bath, brushing teeth, and reading a book.
  • Keep bedtime consistent: Make sure your child goes to bed and wakes up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Steer clear of electronics: Electronic devices that give off blue light may delay the natural release of melatonin in a child’s body. Avoid using phones, computers, or watching TV for at least two hours before bed.
  • Exercise: When kids move their bodies during the day, they are more likely to be tired at night.
  • Watch your child’s food and drink consumption: Don’t let kids eat a large meal before bed or consume drinks with caffeine.


Melatonin is a popular dietary supplement parents often give their children and teens who have difficulty falling asleep. While short-term use of the hormone appears safe, researchers aren’t sure how melatonin affects kids in the long run.

The FDA doesn’t regulate the supplement, and it can cause unwanted side effects. Most experts advise talking to a pediatric healthcare provider before trying melatonin for sleep. You may see results by changing your child’s sleep habits.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Harvard Health. New advice on melatonin use in children.

  3. Sleep Foundation. Melatonin dosage for kids.

  4. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Melatonin: What you need to know.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Pediatric melatonin ingestions - United States, 2012-2021.

  6. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Health advisory: Melatonin use in children and adolescents.

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