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The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation and Melatonin Use in Kids

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girl sleeping after taking melatonin

*02/15/2013 update at bottom of post

*09/06/2013 update at bottom of post

Sleep deprivation is a common complaint around here (especially at our Facebook group). High need babies tend to have trouble falling asleep, may have late bedtimes and early mornings, resist naps, and have broken sleep.

This often means total exhaustion both for baby and for mom. And lack of sleep usually leads to an overtired baby who has even more trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. And once this vicious cycle of lack of sleep starts, it’s difficult to break it.

I wanted to share something with you, not to scare you, but to underline the importance of making sure you do everything in your power to help your child sleep.

I don’t share much about my daughter on this site, mainly because my son has always been so much more ‘spirited’ than her.

But one area where he has her beat is at sleep. Once his head hits the pillow, he’s out (we won’t talk about the fact that he often ends up in our bed in the middle of the night).

My daughter, on the other hand, has always had difficulty falling asleep at night. From the time she was about 2 years old, she has fought bedtime. We’ve had a routine from day 1, but even so, sleep eludes her often until 10 or 11 at night.

And of course she doesn’t sleep in…no matter what time she falls asleep, she’s generally up at the same time each morning.

Many times 11pm would come along, and she would be obviously frustrated and upset that she couldn’t fall asleep. She *wanted* to fall asleep, but insisted she didn’t feel tired.

That’s why, from the time she was about 6 (she’s 8 now), we started giving her melatonin at night. We were amazed at how much it helped! We’d give her 3 mg of melatonin 30 minutes before we wanted her to go to sleep, and like clockwork, 30 minutes later she’d be asleep.

We researched the effects of melatonin on kids before we gave it to her. Most websites indicated it was fine to use in the short term, but that long term use hadn’t been studied.

After we had been giving it to her off and on for almost 2 years, we checked it out with our doctor (hmmm, maybe we should have done that sooner?). He indicated it was probably fine to give to her, but to keep it to 3 nights a week.

Skip ahead 6 months…

Aliya came to us one night after we had given her melatonin, and she had been in bed about 30 minutes. She was a bit shaky, and seemed a little scared. She told us that as she was falling asleep, her ‘teeth started chattering’.

Honestly, we didn’t think much of it. We told her it was probably cold in her room, or maybe she was dreaming. Or maybe it was one of those random things that happen when in you’re in that space between awake and asleep (like when you get that sudden sensation of falling).

This happened for the next 2 nights, and by the 3rd night, we were beginning to wonder if there was something to this. She said that she had even gotten out of bed and walked to the mirror, trying to get her teeth to stop chattering. We told her the next time it happened to come get us and show us.

We didn’t have to wait long. The next night, Aliya came into our room, again about 30 minutes after going to bed (and after having taken melatonin). I was still up watching TV, but what my husband saw was definitely NOT just ‘chattering teeth’.

One side of Aliya’s mouth was drooping, and she was drooling heavily. She was trying to talk, but her words were coming out garbled…like gibberish. It lasted about 10 seconds. Slowly, her face returned to normal, and she was able to speak normally.

It was terrifying. We had a quick consultation with Dr. Google, and immediately recognized that this was most likely a seizure. A seizure? In my perfectly healthy little girl?

But the research seemed clear…here are a few excerpts we found online:

Always ask your child’s doctor before giving melatonin to a child. In fact, doses between 1 – 5 mg may cause seizures in this age group.” – University of Maryland Medical Center

It has been suggested that melatonin may lower the seizure threshold and increase the risk of seizure, particularly in children with severe neurologic disorders. However, multiple other studies actually report reduced incidence of seizure with regular melatonin use. This remains an area of controversy. Patients with seizure disorder taking melatonin should be monitored closely by a healthcare professional.” – Mayo Clinic

“Melatonin should not be used in most children. It is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Because of its effects on other hormones, melatonin might interfere with development during adolescence.” – Medline Plus

How could we not have known this? How could we have been risking our daughter’s health in this way? I had even told some parents on this site to try melatonin for their children! (This is why I feel I need to share our story here).

Needless to say, we stopped giving her melatonin from that night on. We watched her closely, and determined that if it should happen again – which we doubted, as she was no longer taking melatonin – we would take her to see our doctor.

3 months went by, and all seemed fine. She struggled, once again, with falling asleep at night, but of course we were willing to live with that.

Then one night a few weeks ago, she was having a particularly hard time falling asleep. In fact, she had stayed up late a few nights in a row, despite being in bed at a normal time. We even had a fight that night; It was 10:30, and we felt she must be desperately overtired from staying up late 3 nights in a row. She insisted she didn’t feel tired at all, and declared she was going to ‘stay up all night’.

I walked her to her room, tucked her in, and told her if I heard one more peep from her, there was going to be trouble.

She was asleep in minutes.

Half an hour later, I was getting ready for bed. I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth, when I thought I heard a strange sound coming from her room. I dropped my toothbrush and headed for her room. As I got closer, it sounded to me like she was throwing up…I ran.

My daughter, my perfect little never-sick-a-day-in-her-life little girl, was laying on her bed, eyes rolling back in her head, and she appeared to be choking. She was gagging and making terrible noises. There was drool coming out the side of her mouth, and when I yelled at her, there was no response. I screamed for my husband, and I’ve never seen him move so fast. I was pounding on her back, and he was shaking her, yelling at her to wake up.

I thought my baby was dying right in front of me.

My first thought was to call 911, but I knew that no one could survive 20 minutes of this (or however long it took to get an ambulance there).

My husband slapped her, and suddenly, there was quiet. Her face relaxed, and she appeared to be ‘waking up’. We were frantically asking her questions:

“Are you OK?”

“What happened?”

“Can you hear us?”

“Does anything hurt?”

She remained pretty out of it for about a minute. She kind of looked at us, but she wasn’t really able to respond. After a minute, she was finally able to talk. She couldn’t remember what happened. The only thing she remembered was her Dad slapping her.

But she saw our faces, heard the fear in our voices, and saw us shaking. She was terrified.

I won’t go into the details of the weeks since that night, except to say that she had one more seizure since that night (the very next night), has had bloodwork, doctors appointments, a referral to a pediatric neurologist, and a sleep-deprived EEG.

It’s amazing how your child can be perfectly healthy one day, and receive a likely diagnosis of Epilepsy the next.

I’m sharing this all with you for 3 reasons:

1. PLEASE, if you’ve been giving your child melatonin, do your research, and speak with your physician. When I googled ‘melotanin and kids’ a few months ago, I found 3 credible resources (some of them I had to really hunt for) suggesting a link between seizures and melatonin. 3 months later, there are many more websites pointing to this link.

2. If your child says they don’t ‘feel’ tired, but your gut tells you they ARE tired, go with your gut, and do everything in your power to help them sleep.

When Aliya had her sleep-deprived EEG recently, she needed to stay up all night the night before the test. After 2 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, she claimed she ‘wasn’t tired and didn’t need a nap’.

Every night since the seizure, I have laid down with her to go to sleep. Many times she claims to not be tired. Every single night I’ve laid with her and insisted she lay still for 15 minutes, she’s fallen asleep, sometimes in as little as 2 minutes.

This leads me to believe that some children either don’t recognize their tired cues, or perhaps don’t even experience tired cues at all.

2. If your child, especially your 1 year old + child is consistently having poor, interrupted sleeps, and is obviously sleep-deprived, talk to your doctor and to a respected sleep consultant who has experience with kids.

I’m not saying every child (or even most) who are sleep-deprived are going to have seizures.

But if your child is prone to seizures (and you can’t know this until they actually have one, or else if a family member has epilepsy), it’s imperative they get enough sleep. You also need to know that some research suggests that melatonin reduces the seizure-threshold in children.

“There is an inherent relationship between sleep and epilepsy. Sleep activates the electrical charges in the brain that result in seizures and seizures are timed according to the sleep wake cycle. For some people, seizures occur exclusively during sleep. This is especially true for a particular type of epilepsy known as benign focal epilepsy of childhood, also known as Rolandic epilepsy. When seizures occur during sleep, they may cause awakenings that are sometimes confused with insomnia. Epilepsy patients are often unaware of the seizures that occur while they sleep. They may suffer for years from daytime fatigue and concentration problems without ever knowing why.” - National Sleep Foundation

 

*Update, 02/15/2013: I thought I should give an update as it has now been about 6 months since I wrote this post. Our daughter has had several seizures since this time.

We haven’t given her melatonin since this post was written, however each of the times she’s had seizures since (with the exception of one), it has seemed to be related to lack of sleep. 2 of these times were when she had awakened in the middle of the night because of sickness (cold/flu). Each time she fell back asleep and then had a seizure 30 minutes in. We believe the seizures were due to poor sleep because of sickness.

After meeting with a pediatrician specializing in neurology, and after doing a sleep-deprived EEG, our daughter was diagnosed with Benign Rolandic Epilepsy. As mentioned above, BRE can be related to sleep issues, so we work hard at making sure she is in bed at a decent hour, and we do whatever it takes to help her fall asleep (including laying down with her until she’s asleep).

With her doctor’s blessing we decided to continue working at building good sleep habits, and see if this could take care of the seizures. Unfortunately, she had another particularly bad seizure, and this on a night when we couldn’t connect it to any sleep-related issues. At this point it was decided she would go on an anti-seizure medication, and she has now been seizure-free for just over 3 months, with very few side effects from the medication.

The good news about BRE is that it’s a developmental form of Epilepsy, and she will outgrow it, likely by her early teen years. We are also very thankful that the seizures, while terrifying for all of us, are not harmful.

In the meantime, we will continue to work at making sure she gets enough sleep. Even now, she rarely feels tired, and would likely run on no more than 8 hours sleep per day if we let her. Many nights she’ll insist she feels wide awake, but after laying down with her, she’s out in 1-2 minutes.

This whole situation has reminded me of the importance of making sure our little ones get the rest they so desperately need. It’s up to us as parents to know how much sleep our kids need, and ensure they’re getting it, even if they don’t always act or feel tired!

 *Update, 05/06/2013: After receiving a number of comments this evening (which I deleted) in which I was referred to as ‘grossly negligent’, and an ‘idiot’, I wanted to clarify my intentions behind this post.

Melatonin did not cause my daughter’s epilepsy. This was obviously something she was predisposed to, and the reason why she began having seizures is unknown.

However, research is suggesting that long-term use of melotonin in children may reduce the seizure threshold in children.

If you’re going to give your child melotonin, please do your due diligence and speak with your doctor.  I would also recommend mentioning the latest research into seizures and melatonin, as some physicians are simply not aware.

I’m not a doctor, and don’t claim to be one. I just urge you to do your own research, and have a discussion about your doctor about it.

With our doctor’s blessing, we gave our daughter melatonin for several years. We will never know if the melatonin contributed to the seizures starting. However the fact that they started while she was on melatonin, and happened within 30 minutes of taking it, does give us reason to pause.

Sometimes melotonin is needed in order to combat serious sleep problems, particularly in children with autism. I would never suggest withholding something that could help in cases where sleep problems are severe, or where a knowledgable doctor has recommended it.

Do your research, talk to your health care professional, and then do what’s right for you and your family.

For more information, see my recent post Is Melatonin Safe for Kids? [Research] 

About 

Holly Klaassen has been running The Fussy Baby Site since 2007. Inspired to start the site after giving birth to her second child, the site aims to provide support and information to parents of fussy, colicky, high need or 'spirited' babies and kids. The main message of this site? You are not alone! When Holly isn't writing for The Fussy Baby Site, she can be found writing for other businesses on topics related to digital marketing, social media, business, and of course, parenting.

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Category: General Parenting, Sleep, Stories

Comments (34)

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  1. Sandria says:

    I am so sorry about your daughter. I agree parents need to be educated and talk to pediatrician before starting any medication or supplement. I will tell you, you have made me re-do my research I did as a mom and a nurse. My son has been on melatonin since he was 3 years old because he just stopped sleeping (2-3am no matter what we did). He has ADHD and has been on 1-2mg since he was 3 years old with no side effects, that we have noticed yet. I am worried some doctors are prescribing upwards of 8mg. (As there have been studies in ADHD, Autistic, and developmental delayed children that showed this was safe but question long term effects). I thank you for bringing to my attention about the effects of Melatonin and hormones in adolescence as my son is now 9 we are almost there (god help me :-) I don’t know if we will stop it as it has worked (when nothing else has) but I will be doing a new extensive literary review. Thank you for bring this new research to my attention.

  2. Jessica A says:

    Oh my goodness that’s so scary!!!

  3. Rachel says:

    That is so scary for you! Thank you for posting this! That’s why I always go to my doTERRA essential oils. Lavender is great to help my kids sleep and totally safe!

    • Laura says:

      Rachel,
      Please do some research into using lavender on children. It has been shown to simulate estrogen and cause hormonal changes, including breast tissue development in children.
      It helps me sleep, but I would never use it on kids.

      Holly,
      I have had to cosleep with my child some nights to get her to sleep. She suffers from sleep disorder in addition to other neurological disorders. She has recently been having silent seizures, but the link between lack of sleep and seizure had not occurred to me. I will have to be more diligent in asking questions about the correlation.

      • Chauntel says:

        I just found out about the side effects of lavender about a year ago. (I wish doterra would include that info in their reading materials). We now use chamomile instead. Still very calming, but without the side effects! :)

        • Becky says:

          Hi I just read the article on melatonin and seizures with children. I read your comment on lavander. Could you tell me about that as I sprinkle some in my daughters bed every night.
          Thanks
          Becky

  4. jen says:

    wish i could try those essential oils, but i’m allergic to lavender… nobody can sleep through me sneezing that much. I give my 4 yr old .5 mg of melatonin on school nights, if she is having trouble sleeping. I actually rarely give it to her anymore, we’ve been doing it for about 2 months, if i’m at home i lay with her and make her go to sleep. I’ve been told by multitudes of people that i can’t just keep letting her sleep in my bed, and without any melatonin, thats where she ends up, or starts out, nearly every night, and fights to get to sleep for hours. and has since she was BORN. she has never had an easy time falling asleep… or staying asleep! she’s “not a sleeper” unlike her brother, who thinks sleeping should be a professional hobby of his.
    the melatonin has helped us build a bedtime routine where she actually associates sleep with the end of it instead of starting to wind up for the night of festivities like she used to. we are planning on taking it away entirely, or using very rarely after this.

    • Chauntel says:

      have you tried chamomile essential oil?

  5. kim says:

    I just bought a bottle of Melatonin and was going to try it tonight. thank you so much for posting this! I am throwing it out and laying down with my daughter now!!!! thanks again for posting

  6. Autumn says:

    Thank You so much for your post! You have no idea how many people you can help if you just get the word out there! Please let any other parents have the time & the guts to post their bad experiences with this medication as you did! God Bless You and Your Family! I have been searching for this type of information for years now online! My fiancé has twin 5yr olds who have been taking this hormone or over 1yr now, if not longer. They are showing more and more side effects as time goes on. This of course is not happening in our household, and our worries have been expressed but aren’t stopping this from happening. I believe that the pediatrician has tried contacting other authorities to educate their mother on better ways to deal with sleep problems as well, but I am not positive about this either. We have forwarded as much info as possible to their mother but instead it’s considered an attack on her parenting skills, or a preference of ours, and is ignored. We are worried sick for these two boys. I just hope it’s not too late by the time she receives news of your story, or better yet many more! I know she isn’t knowingly harming her children but just assuming, like many others, it will be fine. They sleep just fine here, as a matter of fact perfectly most of the time, but we adhere to a very strict bedtime routine when we can. Thank you again for your story! I hope your little girl is doing better! May god be with you and her through your struggles!

  7. Cheryl Dieter says:

    Thank you for posting this. I have two boys who have autism. One has severe sleep issues (read this as he does not sleep) He also has had seizures in the past as many people with autism do. I have tried melatonin to help him sleep but never knew about the melatonin/seizure link. I will stop giving it to him. Thank you so much for this valuable information.

  8. Holly says:

    Hi Cheryl, Please talk to your physician before stopping melatonin. I know it’s often prescribed for kids with autism…we decided it was better to live with the lack of sleep than risk more seizures, however for some kids, it may be the right thing to do.

  9. Sarah says:

    Since you are no longer using Melatonin you may want to consider that when the body even in sleep is exposed to even the smallest amount of light your “Pineal Gland” does not produce an ample amount of melatonin required to get you into a deep sleep. You may want to consider (you probably already have) making sure she sleeps in a completely dark room. I give my children very, very small doses of melatonin with the okay of a geneticist for very different reasons other then sleep. But my children have told me that they feel like they have slept better after they have had melatonin. You may also want to consider giving your daughter dark cherry juice before bed, it has natural melatonin in it… My children also drink chamomile tea before bed. I’ve worked with adults and children who have seizures for a long time they can be scary regardless of the cause or situation…

    • Holly says:

      Thanks so much for the tips Sarah! I do need to make sure her room is completely dark…she likes to have a nightlight on. We’ve done the camomile tea and I should probably try that again too..these sleep troubles continue to be a bit of an issue. Thanks for the tips!

  10. Mary says:

    I am so sorry that you and your child have gone through this. We experienced the exact same thing with my autistic son years ago taking melatonin. He also had night terrors while on it and it increased mood swings. I am proud to say that after a year or so the seizures decreased and now, almost five years later they seem to have completely stopped. I lose a lot of friends within autism groups for advising against melatonin but I really believe doctors should stop giving this to children, especially those with neurological disorders like autism.

  11. Thank you for sharing your story. I am going to share it at SPDPS on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/sensoryprocessingdisorderparentsupport I had a very similar experience with my daughter too and never again will she take melatonin. Again, thank you for sharing. xx

  12. Kristin says:

    My son has epilepsy and Autism. A few years ago we were having a severe problem with him not being able to sleep. It lasted about 1 1/2 years and was taking it’s toll on him and our family. I was at my whit’s end and was calling his pediatrician and neurologist begging for help for him and myself to save my sanity. I had tried Melatonin and it was somewhat successful, but it didn’t seem to last. I would give him 6 mg and he would get sleepy but he would wake up like clockwork 2 1/2 to 3 hours later and was WIRED!! The doctor said it was safe to give him another dose but that wouldn’t kick in for some time. Finally, I consulted with a sleep specialist and he went through a sleep study with an EEG and was put on Clonidine and it has been miraculous for him. His sleep study showed his brain impulses just don’t slow down which is what I knew before the test. It’s what I had told all of his doctors “It’s like he just can’t shut his brain down.” He would move and talk and just couldn’t settle down. Even during sleep, he was moving and talking alot. I would recommend to anyone who is having this problem that they consult with a sleep specialist. Children are not immune to sleep apnea and some of the other sleep disorders that typically affect adults. The damage done to a growing body that is starved of precious sleep is incredible. On a positive note, since starting the Clonidine, he’s grown in height, weight has steadied (he was heading towards obesity) and he’s doing great in school now. Behavior has improved tremendously too!!!

  13. jenrose says:

    FWIW, 1 mg is a high dose, even for an adult. The most scientifically supported dose for an adult is 300 mcg, 1/3 of 1 mg approx.

    My daughter takes it every night, but she has a chromosome disorder and lacks sleep/wake cues. She is capable of going days without sleep, or sleeping for 18 hours straight when we just use “normal” methods. We’re not too concerned about long term effects since we’re going to have to delay/control puberty for her anyway due to her condition. She doesn’t seize, though when she was a baby she did have absence spells that went away when she started on CoQ10.

    Sometimes even with melatonin, she is up all night. We’re narrowing it down to a food issue, the most likely culprit at this moment is the natamycin they put in pre-shredded cheese.

    It’s a tool. Like all tools, it can have good effects or bad effects depending on where or how it is used.

  14. Lynne H. says:

    Holly, what a terrifying experience! I’m so happy to hear you have a handle on it. I just wanted to say thank you for the information. You did not have to give a complete description of your experience to the public, you did it because you are a good mother and obviously wanted to selflessly help others who might find themselves in a similar situation.

    Shame on any parent who would call you names and hurl nasty remarks at you. I am a grandmother of 7 and I have never heard of such a thing. Just because we are mothers does not mean that we can automatically assess every medical emergency.

    There is a reason Doctors have as much schooling and training as they do, and why we rely on them to take care of us. Thank you again for taking the time and having the courage to educate the rest of us based on your experience and research. Take care, all the best to you and your family. <3

  15. jessica says:

    Wow. That is so scary. My daughter sounds a lot like your little girl. She would never go to sleep or admit to being tired, but a good sleep is so very important to her. She is a wreck without it. But she has such a hard time sleeping. I have always cuddled up with her while she falls asleep, it works. My pediatrician suggested I try giving her melatonin but I didn’t know enough about it so decided I’d research it first. That was months ago and I still haven’t looked into it. I’m really glad I read this. My brother has epilepsy. It’s probably best not to give it to my little girl. Plus, the nightly cuddles are something I actually really like. So sorry you had to go through that.

  16. Coleen Neal says:

    My son never had seizures until he was 6 either. I read at the time that and a neurologist told me that if a child is going to have seizures that 6 years old is the prime age that they will start. I don’t know why. My son is now 12 and still has them until recently. He has been seizure free for the last 3 months after many changes with meds. He takes melatonin at night. I will have to ask his neurologist about his link. It doesn’t put his threshold down and does help him sleep. The time his threshold is down is when he is tired or sick and that is very common. I hope your daughter gets to a point that they can find what works for her. Seizures suck!!

  17. Erin Paine says:

    Thanks for sharing, this reaffirms some of the reasons we stopped to. My daughter only took it for a few months without side effects thankfully but I just stopped giving it to her, something told me it was for the best. Glad I did. Everyone has a different sleep pattern and just because it isn’t the same as ours doesn’t mean they need supplements. Take em’ to the park I say.

  18. Darryl says:

    Thanks for sharing. I occasionally use melatonin myself and it is helpful (especially on overseas flights!).

    Thank you for courageously sharing your story and opening yourself up for harsh criticism. I’m sorry folks aren’t very kind at times. You did the right thing, did due diligence and when you discovered the possible problems responded appropriately.

    Our culture is fond of trying to solve problems with pills. At least you were trying something that the body normally produces and not trying the class 2 narcotics that even drug companies and doctors suggest children take.

    We do the best we can, and we don’t always make the best choices–but that is all of us. What counts is when you do the best for your child and make the necessary changes and adjustments when you discover a problem.

    Again, thank you.

  19. Carol says:

    What a scary story! Glad you finally were able to get some answers. As the ‘events’ were happening to your child for the first few times, it must have been awful for you…….not to know what was going on and not to be able to help. Here are a few tips for you and other parents as well…………if another parent should find themselves in the same situation, where there child’s face is paralyzed for a period of time, or even if they find that their child is in a ‘seizure like’ episode for more than a minute, and can NOT fully recover after a minute, it’s super important that you call an ambulance (go to the ER). Also, check with your doctor …….if the only ‘test’ they did was an EEG, that can be unreliable. A sleep deprived (one hour) EEG may not pick up on vascular abnormalities. There is also an EEG where they wear the device for 24 hours and are monitored at home and also hooked up to a video camera….that may show more information. There are various types of brain scans that are available……other than the traditional MRI, there is an MRA, MRV, Cat Scan, and then an advanced Cat Scan that is ‘a step below an angiogram’ just not as traumatic. As a Mom, I feel your pain when you have a child going thru something and don’t have answers. Doctors ‘info’ changes all the time, so don’t be afraid to get a second opinion in a year or two! Good Luck with everything.

  20. Melissa says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. It will surely help others.

    Two of my female cousins were diagnosed with BRE at a young age. Both went on medication. By their early teens neither required further medication and they never experienced another seizure. Also, neither were ever given melantonin prior to having their first seizures. It is possible your daughter would have begun having these seizures either way.

    We as parents all make mistakes. It is clear you believed you were acting in the best interest of your daughter. I am sorry that some feel the need to attack you.

  21. Michaela says:

    I appreciate your perspective and the information offered in your piece about the potential dangers of melatonin in children, but I do find it a bit overreaching. Your daughter was part of a small, but unknown percentage to have seizures (at worst) triggered by her chronic use of melatonin. Even acetaminophen can have moderate or severe side effects and it is proven to be one of the safest drugs to administer to children.

    I guess I find your lack of empathy a little frustrating. I, too, have a young child who has suffered his whole life from poor ability to sleep. I won’t outline the routes I took before turning to melatonin, but I resisted supplements for years before I admitted nothing else worked.

    It was definitely the best choice for you to stop giving your daughter melatonin, but to assume that because she can now fall asleep within 2 minutes of your help sometimes means that she doesn’t really need the supplement (and neither do other children) is just overreaching.

    I do not recommend melatonin to children because sleep issues are often blown out of proportion. I strongly believe that most parents do not realize how bad it can get with some little ones. For that reason and because of my desperation before I found melatonin, I do resent your well-intended advice and the tone of your piece. I’m not uninformed when I give my son melatonin even if you were when you gave it to your daughter.

    • Holly says:

      Thank you for your comment, Michaela. I’m very sorry to hear that I come across as lacking empathy for parents, as that was definitely not my intention. I apologize for that. My one intention with this post is to make sure parents do know that melatonin isn’t risk free – and while many more parents understand this now, this post was written at a time when the research was *just* coming out.

      If my daughter hadn’t had seizures, we would still be using melatonin, and after reading a post like this one, I’d probably still continue to give it (if my dr. recommended it). I understand how difficult sleep deprivation is – I’ve experienced it with both my kiddos. And melatonin is one tool for helping with it (and it worked great for us!).

      I just want parents to be aware, and to discuss with their doctors. I also want parents to feel empowered to do whatever it takes to get their child healthy sleep – whether that’s laying with them, co-sleeping, or yes, using melatonin.

      We’ll never know what caused our daughter’s epilepsy – whether that was sleep deprivation, overuse of melatonin, or something else entirely – but people should be aware of the research.

  22. Pat says:

    My son has epilepsy AND sleep problems. His seizures are unquestionably related to sleep issues. This is exactly why he takes melatonin. Our choices are:
    1. No sleep = lower seizure threshold (proven)
    3. Melatonin = someone on the inner net said causes their daughter to have off symptoms (not proven)

    This is a no brainer to me. All drugs and supplements come with risks. One has to consider which is more likely and which is “worse.” To me, a “maybe risk” is a lot better than a “repeatedly proven clinically and anecdotally” risk.

    I caution those of you who read sad stories like this against throwing away your children’s hope at sleep. Talk to your doctor before you act on the advice of strangers.

    • Holly says:

      Hi Pat, thanks for your comment. If you read my post through to the end, please note that I am in no way ‘against’ melatonin use. I just caution parents to be aware of the possible relationship between seizures and long term melatonin use. I’m not a dr, and don’t claim to have all the answers, however I was surprised to discover a possible relationship between seizures and long-term melatonin use in children. My goal with this post was to encourage other parents to look at the research for themselves and to consult with their doctors about this correlation.

      You’ll also notice that several times in this post I urge parents to “consult with their doctor”, so I’m not telling people to “throw away their children’s hope at sleep”. I just want parents to be informed.

  23. Holly says:

    Hi folks, thank you all for your comments. I truly appreciate those of you who have taken the time to comment on this post. Please note that due to what I can only describe as regular ‘hate mail’, I have now disabled comments on this post.

    The main point of this post is to stress 2 points (which I included in the update at the bottom of the post): do your due diligence before giving your child any type of medication or supplement, and do what you can to help your child sleep. Many people have great results with giving melatonin, and most children will never have seizures. So if it’s working for you, and your doctor okay’s it, please, ignore my post.

    If, on the other hand, you have a family history of epilepsy, or you find using it increases your child’s seizures, please consult your physician.

    Big hugs to all of us for being the best parents we can be.

  24. heather says:

    I feel like a lot of the haters aren’t reading all of what she has posted. Basically just taking words out of context to make yourself feel superior..? This post is helpful, caring & well written.

  25. Sara Henderson says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience with Melatonin. My son has never been a sleeper and recently it has become so much worse. We finally went to the pediatrician about 2 weeks ago and she recommended that he take melatonin at bedtime. The first few nights were miraculous-it worked like a charm! However, since then he has woken up around 2-3 am every night and can’t get back to sleep. Of course, neither can I! After reading your post, I don’t think I will give this to him anymore. It’s just not worth the risk. Tomorrow, I will call the sleep center to have him evaluated. Best wishes to you and your family and I hope your daughter will be ok!

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