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Concerns over use of melatonin in children

The media has recently highlighted that the number of prescriptions for melatonin have been increasing in children and young people. This is a cause for concern and something that The Children’s Sleep Charity is working hard to address. It is, of course, important to note that there are cases where it is appropriate to prescribe melatonin; children with autism and other developmental issues, for example, may not produce enough melatonin at the right time.

The Children’s Sleep Charity offers a behavioural approach to sleep in order to reduce the need for prescription drugs. In Doncaster, parents are signposted to our clinics in order to try behavioural strategies, including reviewing sleep hygiene.

We meet many parents who believe that melatonin is a natural remedy and have an expectation that a sleep routine is not needed once a prescription has been obtained. Other parents choose to buy melatonin from the internet believing it is the only way for them and their families to get a good night’s sleep. Educating parents is important so that they do realise that melatonin is not a long-term solution for sleep issues or a substitute for good sleep hygiene.

Improving sleep issues can be hard work and often sleep problems can get worse before they begin to improve. At the moment, there is a lack of support for families around sleep despite it being fundamental for emotional, physical and mental wellbeing. As a charity we work on limited resources and struggle to meet the demand of parents in crisis. We have, however, produced a number of information leaflets on sleep hygiene that can be downloaded from our website www.thechildrenssleepcharity.org.uk.

I would urge pharmacists to look at our resources and to signpost families to our website where they can learn more about a behavioural approach to sleep.

Vicki Dawson

Founder and CEO

The Children’s Sleep Charity

Citation: Clinical Pharmacist DOI: 10.1211/CP.2017.20202926

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