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Melatonin is a hormone that tends to be prescribed to adults who are having difficulty in sleeping. The hormone itself is produced naturally by our bodies when the light around us gets darker and is used as a signal by the body that it’s time to start slowing down and prepare to sleep. In other words, melatonin makes us sleepy!

And this has seen great results, particularly in the over-55s market where melatonin is seen as a far less aggressive and less addictive alternative to other insomnia solutions such as sleeping pills. However, not much is known about any long-term risks that prescribing melatonin might pose, which makes it particularly worrying that there’s a new trend of Melatoninprescribing melatonin to children under the age of 14 with sleeping issues. Indeed, some experts are worried that melatonin is becoming a fashionable drug that parents want to ensure the ‘perfect’ child that sleeps through the night.

The NHS itself does not keep specific records about the number of drugs prescribed to children, but there has been a large increase in the number of melatonin prescriptions in adults over the last decade. Yet what has been noticed is the number of GPs and nurses mentioning the increase in melatonin prescriptions from paediatricians. This has been particularly noticed by Dr Neil Stanley, an independent sleep expert, who spoke in an interview to the Guardian about his melatonin worries.

In this interview, Dr Stanley spoke of the students who take his classes (usually nurses and doctors) who have spoken up about their worries about melatonin and children. In reality, Stanley suggests that unless a child has a known condition such as autism, where melatonin helps the effects of autism, there is little need for melatonin to be given to children without autism. Especially when so little is known about the effects in the long-term. This hormone could easily cause problems in adulthood. Especially since some lab research has shown that melatonin can cause problems in mice during puberty. Some known effects of the drug include headaches and dizziness.

The problem is that parents don’t fully understand what melatonin is. They hear the fact that melatonin is naturally made in the body and presume that the drug must be natural too. However, this is far from the case. The melatonin that is prescribed in this country is actually synthetically made in a lab, so is far from natural.

True, in some cases of sleep problems, melatonin will be an appropriate measure to help a child sleep. But before the prescription is made, it is vital that behavioural methods are explored first.

The most important of these is to enforce a strict bedroom every night. Children thrive on routine and creating your own routine from an early age will only make sleep easier in the years to come. Don’t be tricked into thinking that keeping your child up late will make them sleep longer in the morning – this rarely works. Rather they’ll get up just as early and be a handful due to sleep-deprivation.

Try to create a routine that you can follow every night at the same time. For instance, a bath followed by pyjamas and a bedtime story. By repeating this nightly your child will recognise this as time to go to sleep and begin to feel sleepy at this time, making it far easier to get them to drift off. Just push this routine back by 15 minutes as they get older and want to stay up later. You should also try to dim the lights and close curtains around an hour before bed as this will help melatonin to be produced naturally.

Of course, your child’s bed and pillows should also be checked regularly to ensure they have the most comfortable sleeping area possible. Need advice on the best bed for your child? Simply get in contact today, and we’ll assist you into finding the perfect bed and mattress.

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