Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. It is sometimes used as a sleep aid in children, but its safety and appropriate dosing in young children is not well established. This article provides an overview of what is known about melatonin use in 1 year olds, including typical doses, safety considerations, and effects on sleep. Proper medical guidance should always be sought before giving any medication to infants and toddlers.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain. It helps control the body’s circadian rhythm and sleep-wake cycle. Levels of melatonin in the blood rise in the evening and peak in the middle of the night, which makes people feel drowsy. Melatonin levels drop in the morning to wake you up. Some people take melatonin supplements to help with insomnia or jet lag.
Melatonin in Children
While melatonin is produced naturally, some children struggle with low melatonin levels or have trouble falling asleep. Melatonin supplements may help, but appropriate dosing can be challenging in young kids. According to research, disrupted sleep patterns in childhood are associated with physical health issues, mood disturbances, and poor school performance. Thus, pediatric sleep specialists sometimes recommend melatonin for sleep-onset difficulty in children. However, melatonin is not regulated by the FDA and optimal dosing is unclear.
1 Year Old Sleep Needs
One year old babies still need a good amount of sleep to support their rapid growth and development. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 year olds need 11-14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. This includes daytime naps, which typically last 1-3 hours at this age. Nighttime sleep for 1 year olds ranges from 10-13 hours. Establishing a soothing bedtime routine is important for helping babies wind down and fall asleep independently.
Melatonin Dosage for 1 Year Olds
There is limited clinical research on appropriate melatonin doses for children under 3 years old. According to Nationwide Children’s Hospital recommendations, the suggested dosage range for a 1 year old is 0.5 mg to 3 mg taken 30 minutes before bedtime. However, studies on melatonin in young children are lacking. Always consult your pediatrician before giving melatonin. Some key points on dosage include:
- Start with the lowest suggested dose (0.5 mg) and increase slowly as needed.
- Only use immediate-release melatonin products.
- Give the dose 30-60 minutes before bedtime.
- Time each dose based on when you want your child to fall asleep.
- Discontinue melatonin if there are any side effects.
Factors Affecting Dosage
The appropriate melatonin dosage may vary between individual children based on:
- Age – Older children within the 1-3 year old range may tolerate slightly higher doses better.
- Weight – Heavier 1 year olds may need a dose at the higher end of the range.
- Timing – When sleep onset is desired affects needed dose.
- Sensitivity – Some children are more sensitive to melatonin’s effects.
Always start with the lowest dose and increase by 0.5 mg increments as directed. The maximum suggested dose for a 1 year old is around 3 mg.
While generally considered safe when used as directed, melatonin does have some side effects and safety concerns to be aware of:
- Most common side effects are morning drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, and bedwetting.
- Rare but serious risks include seizures, confusion, hypotension, allergies, and mood changes.
- Unknown long term effects with prolonged use.
- Lack of high-quality studies in young children.
- Possibility of impurities or inaccurately labeled doses in supplements.
- Interactions with other medicines and health conditions.
Due to limited safety research, melatonin is usually only recommended for short-term use in children under 3 years old. Work closely with your child’s doctor and monitor for any side effects.
Effects on Sleep
Research suggests that melatonin may help reduce the time it takes to fall asleep (sleep onset latency) in children, but results are mixed. According to a 2021 Cochrane review, melatonin use for up to 4 weeks seems to decrease sleep onset latency by an average of 15 minutes in children 1-18 years old. However, the authors noted that the evidence was of low certainty with possible bias.
Some other studies on melatonin and sleep in young children have found:
- Improved total sleep duration of about 30 minutes per night.
- Increased sleep efficiency with less time awake after sleep onset.
- Mixed results on effects on night wakings.
- Help getting over jet lag when traveling across time zones.
However, due to very limited data, optimal dosing to improve sleep in 1 year olds is still unclear. More rigorous research is needed on melatonin’s effectiveness and safety as a sleep aid in infants and toddlers.
Alternatives to Melatonin
While melatonin may help some young children sleep, experts recommend trying these safer methods first:
- Consistent bedtime routine.
- Soothing activities like a warm bath before bed.
- Comfort items such as stuffed animals and blankets.
- Dark, quiet, comfortable sleep environment.
- No screens before bedtime.
- Regular exercise and limited daytime naps.
- Ruling out any underlying medical issues.
Non-medical interventions should be attempted for at least 2-4 weeks before considering melatonin. Speak to your pediatrician if your 1 year old is having significant sleep problems before starting any medication.
Melatonin may help some 1 year olds fall asleep faster, but appropriate dosing and safety are unclear for this age group. Typical doses range from 0.5 mg to 3 mg given 30-60 minutes before bedtime. However, studies on melatonin in children under 3 are very limited. Melatonin should only be used with medical guidance and careful monitoring for side effects. Try alternative methods like a bedtime routine first before considering melatonin supplements in babies and toddlers. More rigorous research is still needed on melatonin’s efficacy and safety profile in young children. Proper sleep habits remain essential for health in 1 year olds.