Melatonin Use And Poisoning Reports Surging In Children, Revealing Concerning Problem

December 4, 2023 in News by RBN Staff

source:  zerohedge

SUNDAY, DEC 03, 2023 – 10:00 PM

Authored by Marina Zhang via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

But recent survey findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics suggest that melatonin consumption in U.S. children and adolescents is “exceedingly common.”

(Illustration by The Epoch Times, Shutterstock)

Around one-fifth of American children use melatonin for sleep, with some parents beginning administration to their children at the early age of 1, the authors wrote.

The United States has seen a rapid rise in pediatric melatonin use due to sleep problems. Some clinicians attribute these sleep problems to an increase in mental illness and screen use.

According to the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) survey findings, between 2017 and 2018, around 1 percent of children and adolescents under the age of 19 consumed melatonin in the past 30 days.

The JAMA Pediatrics study authors compared this finding to their own research results, reporting that the current data indicate a rise in use of about 20 percent. Parents surveyed also reported that their children take the supplement on average two to five days per week, and many take it daily.

Up to 20 percent of children have taken melatonin in the past 30 days, and two to five days per week on average. (Illustration by The Epoch Times)

The common use of melatonin has also contributed to melatonin poisoning. Between 2012 and 2021, poison control centers in the United States have seen a 530 percent increase in melatonin ingestion reports among children, some of which resulted in hospitalization and death, according to research published in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) publication.

Between 2012 and 2021, poison control centers in the United States have seen a massive increase in melatonin ingestion reports among children, some of which resulted in hospitalization and death. (Illustration by The Epoch Times)

Insufficient Sleep Is Common Among Children

A lot of people think that kids don’t have sleeping problems, and that is absolutely not true,” sleep medicine pediatrician Dr. Gayln Perry, CEO of the Perry Center for Pediatric & Adult Sleep Care, told The Epoch Times.

Kids have always had sleeping problems, and these don’t differ much from those of adults.

COVID has also escalated problems. Around 25 percent of children suffered from disrupted sleep prior to the pandemic, and this jumped to nearly 46 percent in 2020.

Just as stress, anxiety, and depression can cause insomnia in adults, the same can occur in children who have different worries from day to day. These may include schoolwork, pressure from peers, and social media interactions.

Many teenagers are also over-committed in their school activities, which impacts their ability to get to bed on time.

Additionally, homeschooling during the pandemic increased children’s screen time. Screens are highly stimulating; their light can suppress and disrupt the sleep cycle.

There is a significant problem with electronics in general, “to the point that some parents really have lost control,” Dr. Perry said. Kids may get up in the middle of the night or early in the morning before school to get on their tablets or phones or to play video games.

Pediatrician Dr. Derek Husmann said he believes screen use is the main problem causing disordered sleeping in children.

Autism and attention-deficit/hyperactive disorders, whose rates have been growing among children, are also associated with poor sleep and difficulty falling asleep.

A Cheap and Accessible Sleep Aid

Parents and caretakers have, therefore, turned to melatonin.

Supplements for children are accessible, unregulated, and can be bought without a prescription. Available in the form of gummies and liquids, they are also appealing to young children.

The majority of parents that come into my clinic have at least tried melatonin, or the child is already on melatonin—either per recommendation from a general pediatrician or on their own,” Dr. Perry said.

Between 2016 and 2020, sales of melatonin supplements increased by around 150 percent, according to the MMWR. Beyond sleep, people also supplement melatonin for its antioxidizing, anti-inflammatoryanti-cancer, and neuroprotective effects.

Sleep aids, some of which are melatonin gummies, are displayed for sale in a store on April 26, 2023, in Miami, Fla. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Melatonin is a natural hormone the body produces to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Light suppresses, while darkness stimulates the release of melatonin from the pineal gland.

Generally, melatonin supplements are advised to be taken one to two hours before bedtime to mimic the natural cycle.

“If taken later, it might be that the ‘window of opportunity’ has been missed,” Henriette Edemann Callesen, a neuropsychiatry consultant for the Danish Health Authority, wrote to The Epoch Times via email.

Melatonin’s effects only last about two hours. “It’s going to facilitate falling asleep quicker, but it’s not going to be around long enough to impact sleep quality,” said Dr. Perry. While parents typically report a short-term benefit when administering melatonin, as time passes, the supplements may not work as well, and the dose may need to be increased.

Dr. Husmann has seen this in his patients.

“It used to bother me a lot when I came across those patients that have been on it for months and months. I asked them to try to wean their kids off … but there are some cases where they try, and it’s not particularly successful,” he said.

Whether prolonged melatonin use leads to tolerance, like other sleeping pills, remains up for debate. Studies have shown conflicting evidence. However, long-term supplementation is typically not advised.

The Dangers

Doctors also generally do not recommend melatonin supplementation for healthy children under age 3 since difficulties falling and staying asleep in these children are almost always behavioral in nature. Yet there have been numerous cases of melatonin use in infants and toddlers.

High melatonin levels have also been detected in deceased children.

“I suspect the biggest issue is easy access to melatonin and its ill-perceived safety,” sleep medicine pediatrician Dr. Muhammad A. Rishi at Indiana University Health wrote to The Epoch Times via email.

North Carolina autopsy report detailed seven cases of suspected melatonin involvement in pediatric deaths.

One case was of a 3-month-old girl routinely given eight to 10 daily doses of 5 milligrams of melatonin supplements as a sleep aid. Such a dosage is well above what’s recommended for a child of any age. The child’s cause of death was inconclusive.

Doctors still do not know why melatonin supplementation may be associated with death, given its assumed high safety profile. It should also be noted that deaths from melatonin supplements make up only a very small percentage of all melatonin poisoning reports.

Dr. Perry said she has never had a patient die from melatonin and expects that since melatonin is an endogenous hormone—meaning it naturally occurs in the body—it should have a wide safety margin.

I don’t see a lot of downsides other than I wish so many kids didn’t need it in the first place,” Dr. Husmann agreed.

However, Dr. Rishi argued that melatonin is a drug, meaning that it changes a person’s mental or physical state and, therefore, should be treated as such.