In generations past, parents often gave small children “a little something” to put them to sleep—from a few drops of opium to a nip of brandy. These days, parents are more likely to ask for a prescription.
However, when it comes to giving medicine to young children, the best rule of thumb is less is better. This is especially true for sleep medications. These can be too strong or backfire and accidentally make kids hyper! In fact, none of the common adult sleep medicines are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in children.
However, one supplement that’s been shown to occasionally help children with serious sleep problems is melatonin. As you’ll remember, our brains make melatonin every evening as the lights dim, but this hormone is also available as an over-the-counter supplement.
A standard toddler dose is 1 mg, given an hour before bedtime. Higher doses (3-10 mg) have been shown to help kids with medically related sleep difficulties such as blindness, autism or ADHD.
Like any medication, melatonin can have side effects. These may include daytime grogginess, headache and very vivid dreams.
Even though the medicine is readily available, always consult your doctor before using it. And only use a very reputable brand of melatonin. The FDA doesn’t regulate the supplements, so their purity is not assured. Also, avoid melatonin that was harvested from the brains of animals.