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Melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain, is sometimes given to children to help them overcome insomnia and fall asleep quickly and naturally. There is some concern that a melatonin precursor, when given in its synthetic form, can raise blood sugar levels and contribute to the development of blood sugar disorders. The side effects of melatonin for children are relatively low, indicating that most children can take it with or without a doctor's order. Although melatonin appears to be safe and effective for helping children fall asleep, long-term studies have not indicated whether or not side effects show themselves later on.
With the onset of darkness, the brain naturally secretes a hormone called melatonin, preparing the body to rest and go to sleep. Many parents decide that using melatonin for children is a safer method to help those suffering from a lack of melatonin production or other sleep-related disorders. It has been shown that melatonin, when taken as a supplement, can increase blood sugar levels in some individuals and can contribute to blood sugar instabilities over time. Some physicians warn that melatonin for children who suffer from diabetes should be avoided, as it may cause uncontrollable and unstable blood sugar levels.
Clinical trials conducted on melatonin for children show that side effects such as vomiting, constipation and weight loss or gain are relatively rare. Supplemental melatonin can be taken without a doctor's consent, partly due to its safety in moderate amounts, yet side effects can occur without the proper dosage. Physicians prefer speaking to parents to determine the correct dosage for the child's age, body weight and height. Since melatonin is not strictly regulated by any governmental agencies, speaking with a doctor can help prevent mistakes in dosage, as overdosing can cause headaches or mood swings.
The majority of studies performed on melatonin for children have been for those suffering from autism or blindness and other children with neurological disorders. This leads many critics and doctors to be wary of using melatonin every night for healthy children, as the long-term effects have not been thoroughly investigated. Synthetic, supplemental melatonin is generally regarded as safe, yet should only be used in the case of occasional insomnia in both children and adults. Sleep professionals often suggest simpler alternatives first, such as reducing caffeine, television and other stimulatory activities an hour before bedtime.
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