Experts warn far too many children are being given sleeping tablets with unknown side effects as parents desire the ‘perfect’ child.

The so-called ‘sleep hormone’ melatonin is naturally produced by the body at night-time and is authorised as a prescription for adults over the age of 55 who are suffering from insomnia.

Yet an exponential rise in the number of children under 14 being hospitalised with sleep disorders over the past decade has led to concerns that some children are being prescribed the hormone ‘off label’ – using drugs in an unauthorised disease or age group.

Experts are worried melatonin is being used by parents in a quest for ‘perfect’ children, reports Daily Mail.

Short-term complications of melatonin drugs include headaches, nausea, dizziness and drowsiness. In the long term, animal studies suggest the drugs can have a negative impact on a user’s hormones.

NHS prescription data does not specify child ages, however, melatonin use has increased ten-fold among under-55s in the past decade, with GPs and nurses reporting overuse in children.

Dr Neil Stanley, an independent sleep expert and former director of sleep research at the University of Surrey, said: ‘Unless a child has a diagnosed condition such as autism that has been scientifically proven to be helped by melatonin, there is no medical rationale for a child to be given it.

‘For non-autistic children it is a fashionable treatment for parents wanting “perfect” children,’ The Guardian reported.

Autistic children often fail to produce adequate amounts of melatonin on their own.

Vicki Dawson, founder of the NHS Doncaster-funded the Children’s Sleep Charity said: “Sometimes there is a place for it [melatonin]. We work closely with paediatricians and there are times when we will say we think it is helpful but only for short periods of time. My concern is some children are on it as a long-term solution. I have worked with kids on it six or seven years.”

Have you had any experience with melatonin? We would love to chat with you and share your story.

Comment below.

Image via shutterstock

  • nah either way, people rush towards things like this instead of normal routes


  • Surely giving children sleeping tablets is a no-no.


  • Did not think children had access to this. My grand daughter is doped nearly every night with some type of natural sleep thing. Lucky my children after the one year mark slept ok.


  • I’ve never heard about this before and, frankly, I’m appalled that some parents will give this to their children for no reason other than to get them to sleep. Different if it has been prescribed for them because of a certain condition.


  • Unaware of this and a little alarmed.


  • This is the first I have ever heard of this and this is very worrying.


  • Wouldn’t occur to me that there was an option to medicate kids for sleep. I thought it was just a tear your hair out until they are old enough to not expect you to fix it problem.


  • Since I was a baby I have always slept a little, once an adult this only became worse.
    I’ve been using Melatonin myself now for over 25 years. With Melatonin I’m able to sleep 4 `a 5 hours, which is a lot for me. Would never give it to my children unless it’s prescribed and supervised by a Doctor.


  • This has been in use with children for a long time. Multiple versions available, including over the counter. It can be very effective for children on the Autism Spectrum but should only used in discussion with your Paediatrician.


  • Very concerning that a parent would chose this for their child. Any sort of medication should be a last resort for a child.


  • Wasn’t aware that melatonin was available here in Aust. My friend desperately needed this some years ago as she was a terrible insomniac and she was told to get it on line from USA. Perhaps things have changed?????


  • Desperation or laziness? Medication might look like a quick fix, but medications have side effects. Even natural solutions have side effects and why not seek non medicated options. Have you considered music?


  • I have never heard of this and find it very concerning.


  • I didn’t even know this was happening. Very worrying.


  • There is other natural sleep medications which don’t contain hormones.
    The advice of a medical professional should always be sought first and the appropriate medication chosen for the child’s age. It may be the child’s body clock is out of sequence and only short term medication is needed.


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