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MIAMI (CBS Miami) – As many parents know, getting your child to sleep can sometimes be a monumental task. Now, more and more parents are turning to a supplement called melatonin to get their children to fall asleep at night.
Melatonin is an over-the-counter, natural hormone that comes in a pill. It’s produced by the brain and stimulates sleep.
Blake Huddleston, an active five-year-old, who loves to play with his older sister, has struggled with sleep issues.
“He’d just be up all night, all wound up, not able to sleep,” said Heather Huddleston, his mother.
So his mom recently tried melatonin. On most nights Huddleston crushes it into a powder, mixes it with juice and sends Blake to bed.
“He seems to be just growing a lot more efficiently. He’s sleeping better, he’s eating better, it’s helped regulate his sleep cycles,” she said.
More parents are discovering their children are better behaved at home and better performers at school after they take melatonin.
Yet there are some concerns. Doctors said there isn’t enough research on the long-term effects. What’s more, melatonin does not have FDA approval for medical use.
Dr. Adiaha Franklin, a pediatrician, often recommends it for kids with developmental disabilities such as autism or ADHD.
She suggests trying other approaches first, such as turning off bright screens before bedtime, in order to increase melatonin the natural way.
“For children, it can actually take up to an hour for their brains to calm down in order for them to make their natural melatonin and go to sleep,” Dr. Franklin said.
Melatonin doesn’t work for everyone. One mother said her teen daughter tried it last year after a neurologist prescribed it for dysautonomia, a nervous system disorder. Instead of sleeping, the 15-year-old complained of blurred vision and increased anxiety.
“She said like, the chalkboard would wave and stuff like that,” she said. “And then we started noticing she started having panic attacks.”
It all stopped once she cut out melatonin.
“Just went away slowly, after 24 to 48 hours,” she said.
Doctors said other side effects could include drowsiness, headaches and even weird dreams.
Huddleston said her son hasn’t experienced any of that, but she urges other moms and dads to talk to their doctor first before trying the supplement.