Health Advice



The risks of melatonin supplements -- especially to children

By Michael Roizen, M.D. on

Last year, Kristen Bell, the voice of Anna in "Frozen," said that she found gummies containing melatonin helped her young children sleep more peacefully. A recent government report that says last year there was a 500% increase in the number of poison center calls involving kids eating melatonin gummies. We hope her kids dodged that bullet.

Melatonin is a brain hormone produced in response to darkness. It helps control a person's circadian rhythms (24-hour internal clock) and stimulates sleep. And from 2012 to 2021, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that more than 4,000 children were hospitalized after ingesting melatonin (either accidently or intentionally) and two died while at home.

What accounts for the increased risk these supplements pose to kids?

Harvard researchers recently discovered that 22 of the 25 melatonin supplements they tested were mislabeled. According to their research published in JAMA, some contained up to 347% more melatonin than claimed. This reinforces the risks a 2017 study found: 26% of those tested supplements contained (unlabeled) the neurotransmitter/hormone serotonin; increased levels can cause shivering, fever, even seizures.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says that there isn't enough conclusive research on melatonin's long-term effects in children to recommend it. So, to help your kids sleep well, make sure they get plenty of physical activity daily and don't drink sugary beverages or eat sugar-added foods. Turn off digital devices an hour before bedtime, read them a story, and have a darkened bedroom and use only red wavelength nightlights.


Health pioneer Michael Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer emeritus at the Cleveland Clinic and author of four No. 1 New York Times bestsellers. His next book is "The Great Age Reboot: Cracking the Longevity Code for a Younger Tomorrow." Do you have a topic Dr. Mike should cover in a future column? If so, please email

(c)2023 Michael Roizen, M.D.

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

(c) 2023 Michael Roizen, M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.




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