CALABASAS (CBSLA.com) — There’s debate as to whether melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone, is safe for helping children go to bed.
Calabasas residents Larry and Deborah Turobiner are parents to four children under 11 years old. They say getting their kids to bed every night was exhausting.
“One kid is crying, another needs to shower, another one needs to eat, homework, so many factors,” Larry Turobiner said.
Two years ago, a pediatrician recommended melatonin to offset one of their kids’ ADHD medication and help the child sleep. It worked well and the pediatrician said it was safe to give to their other children. Since then, they say life has been less chaotic.
The Turobiners use an over-the-counter synthetic form of the hormone used by the body to regulate sleep. The couple say they give their kids less than the lowest recommended dose.
As more parents turn to melatonin, manufacturers are offering the drug in different flavors and low-dose versions.
But some pediatricians warn there are no long-term studies of melatonin in kids. There are also concerns it may affect the onset of puberty.
“Everyone’s pediatricians feel on board, and we are comfortable. There’s been no side effects whatsoever,” Deborah said.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says melatonin is safe for kids to use temporarily, but behavior changes are the first treatment option, like setting a regular bedtime or turning off bright screens before bedtime to increase the body’s natural melatonin production.
“We have a pretty strict nighttime routine, but it’s hard, you know. Even if we’re home, there’s four children and only two of us,” Deborah said.
“We had nights where they would not go to bed until 10 o’clock, and now it’s 7:30, 8 o’clock, it’s an extra two hours with each other,” Larry said.
Experts say short-term use of melatonin can be beneficial for kids with developmental disabilities or autism.
As for the Turobiner family, they plan to stop giving it to the kids soon to see if bedtime will stay a dream.