Ever wonder what the side effects from long term use of melatonin are?

If you have a kid who doesn’t sleep, especially a child with autism, chances are you have heard about the ol’ save all – Melatonin. It helps these kids sleep and it’s natural. What could be better than that?

Because sleep is important. I remember when I used to sleep, it was nice, I miss it.


So we started Sammy on Melatonin shortly after his diagnosis in 2007, after his therapist and other autism parents told me how great it is. And we used it regularly for over a year. Though it helped, it was far from a cure for our sleepless nights. It seemed to work great some nights and others it seemed to have no effect on him at all. I have found no pattern or trigger explaining why he doesn’t sleep on some nights. It seems he just has good weeks and bad weeks. And he has never been a sleeper. He was one and a half before he slept through the night.

So then I started wondering if there were any side effects associated with Melatonin.

I think we are so quick to assume that it is safe because Melatonin occurs naturally in our bodies. But there are side effects.

My search didn’t turn up too many scary side effects. Just the usual: upset stomach, drowsiness, headache, possible mood changes, …ok I can handle that…. but then some that concerned me a bit like depression, hallucinations, nightmares, changes in blood pressure, and reduced body temperature.

But the one that really bothered me and made me decide to stop giving him Melatonin was the growth hormone issues. Since Melatonin is a hormone, unnatural amounts of it can throw off the natural balance of other hormones in our bodies. And that may cause issues like breast growth in males, or shrinkage of the testicles, or infertility in females.  

“Melatonin side effects include decreased sperm count and motility, and women attempting to become pregnant should not take melatonin because it may decrease their fertility. Breast enlargement in men taking melatonin has been reported, according to the NIH. Other hormonal effects associated with melatonin supplements include decreases or increases in progesterone, estradiol, thyroid hormone, growth hormone, prolactin, cortisol and others. Taking melatonin supplements during pregnancy may raise melatonin levels high enough to increase the risk of developmental disorders. Breastfeeding women also should not take melatonin as it can be transferred to the baby.” <– that’s from this website: http://www.livestrong.com/article/95733-side-effects-melatonin/#ixzz1qZ7urU5U

And there have been studies in lab rodents where their testicles shrank. It really concerns me that there haven’t been any long-term studies on how Melatonin affects children. But the idea of it affecting his growth and development scared me away from it. That was years ago….

But Sam still won’t sleep. And many times when he stays up all night he ends up sleeping all morning and missing school. I used to just wake him up and make him go to school. But he had a really grumpy, tired day once and I guess he disrupted class all day and his teacher said he needs to be well rested to attend school. So he ends up staying home. And his sleeplessness is really affecting his attendance. Not to mention I am completely exhausted and sleep deprived.

So once again I was half asleep texting his teacher to tell her he was up all night and is sleeping now and most likely will not wake up in time to make it to school. And she asked if we ever tried Melatonin. And I thought, hmmmmm…. I might just be at that point again.

So I bought the melatonin, and that night we woke up at 4am. And he was really upset. He was tense and sad and standing on his toes and just really out of sorts. And man I was so tired. So I gave him the melatonin and he was asleep in 20 minutes. It was amazing. Usually once he’s up he is up for hours.

But then I googled “melatonin side effects” again. And it bummed me out. They really don’t know what long-term use does to our kids. But there is definitely evidence of it affecting growth hormones. He hates it, so giving it to him is tough, but for now I will definitely use it when he won’t sleep. I just don’t see it as a long-term solution.

Why don’t they sleep?

The latest tip is to maybe try tryptophan, Any one have any experience with that?

What do you use to help your kid sleep? Any advice is welcome – I need to catch some z’s.

—- Sleepless in Autismland











18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rebecca Ellis
    Apr 01, 2012 @ 12:15:21

    Wow…Thats just crazy girl. Ive got several friends with children that either have autism or adhd, and none of them know this. This is so shocking to me. And will be even more to my dear friends. Im so glad that while looking through my friends posts, I found that one had shared this with us. Ive liked your page, and would very much like to become more involved. Anything you could share on my wall or my email is greatly welcomed. And I also will share all I can of your page I can. Ive now added your cause to my list of active causes and I take my work more than serious. Its my passion. Thank you for sharing with your activism! Arkansas Moms For Marijuana/Rebecca Ellis Chapter Fouder/Leader


  2. Kristina
    Jul 03, 2012 @ 11:33:44

    Found u on single moms who have children w autism on fb.

    I have a six year old aspergers tendencies on spectrum I use hylands homeopathic calms forte for kids! Just herbs! It’s great! 🙂


  3. catalina cruz
    Sep 24, 2012 @ 23:49:56

    My boy didn’t sleep through the night until he was 5 so I can relate. I tire him out with soccer, swimming, jogging, tap, guitar and kinnect. Then he sleeps. It must be hereditary because I and my cousins can’t sleep.


  4. Rochelle Galeski
    Mar 27, 2013 @ 11:13:56

    I understand the stresses with Melatonin and it’s side effects. Have you tried the Jameson brand of sheets of Melatonin where you can give doses that are very small. I find a very small amount works for my son and doesn’t give him nightmares. We also only use during daylight savings time as well as to get back into the routine of going to sleep earlier once school starts. Good luck.


  5. lyneve
    Apr 09, 2013 @ 15:43:25

    Hi there,
    My son is adhd and has trouble sleeping. the psyche suggested melatonin and it worked so well for over a month now that i have even started giving a quarter of a 3mg tablet to my twin girls aged 3 who also have trouble sleeping…i feel really bad, as i am always worried about the side effects..but its a really tricky one, as you say, you want them to be well rested for school the next day??


    • Super Mom Jess
      Jan 24, 2014 @ 12:34:05

      My son has used it on and off since he was two – he is 9 now and we have not noticed any side effects. So I wouldn’t worry too much, just try to only use it when totally necessary. Dim lights, calming activities, and lots of exercise has also helped us have more restful nights.


  6. Rachel Tomkinson
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 06:27:16

    Most of us need more Magnesium from food, this will balance out those hormones. I am make a wonderful medicine called WHOOHOO Magnificent Magnesium (from food alone) and its helped the young and old alike with many issues like autism, epilespy, allergies, eczema. Its just real food with no nasty side effects here is my website with more info http://www.betterbods.co.nz/store/product.php?id_product=751
    Blessings Rach x


  7. Suzan
    Jul 20, 2013 @ 19:24:43

    I too have a 5year old son on the spectrum, along with a daughter who is too young to tell (2yrs). Neither slept a full night without melatonin, and would stay up till 11pm, and wake at 4am with waking moments in between. They wouldn’t have day sleeps, so we were all wrecked. We tried everything and tried to get into sleep school but couldn’t. Melatonin has been our saviour and improved their moods but like you we are concerned about long term effects. After my son has been on it for a year, we are trying to stop it, but again find they are up all night, rather than 7-7 on melatonin. Our sanity and health or theirs?!


    • Super Mom Jess
      Jan 24, 2014 @ 12:32:02

      I agree. That’s why we still use it, we just try to use it only when totally necessary. What has also helped was getting a sensory swing. It’s in the middle of our living room and helps calm him and he sleeps better now. Good Luck! 🙂


  8. Barbara
    Aug 15, 2013 @ 13:43:08

    Hey, I’m sure you have, but I was wondering if you’ve tried Epsom salt. Depending on your son, he may not do this, but my sons would sit with their feet in a foot bath of epsom salt while watching TV and then they would ask to go to bed.


  9. jesse
    Oct 31, 2013 @ 06:49:05

    melatonine does not shrink balls, typ in long term melatonine study in google and u even find out that 100mg orally does not do that. i have taken 1mg for 2 years and never had shrinkage or mood disorders. al thought i dont know what melatonine does above 100mg


  10. Missy
    Jan 23, 2014 @ 00:23:46

    I tried everything else with my son, and when I take him off melatonin he falls asleep 40 minutes later every single night until it’s 4:00 am and I have to start him back on it. (It makes no changes to his headaches or nightmares either way). I am looking into Tart Cherry Juice, so I’ll let you know how that compares.


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