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Child Development

Can Melatonin Help Kids with ADHD?

August 26, 2022
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    Does your child have difficulty falling asleep at night? Well, you are not alone. As many as 70% of children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) experience sleep problems, which can, as a result, affect the child’s functioning during the day. 

    Not only do sleep problems affect a child’s functioning, but they can also exacerbate symptoms of ADHD. If your child is having difficulty falling asleep or getting an adequate amount of sleep at night, an over-the-counter supplement might be an effective short-term solution. This sleep aid is known as melatonin.

    Melatonin to be one of the most commonly used supplements among both adults and children.

    In this article, I will outline whether the use of melatonin is safe for children, the proper dosage, common side effects of melatonin, and other effective strategies to help your ADHD child got to sleep at night. Learn more in this article.

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    Is Melatonin Safe for Children?

    Melatonin is a naturally produced hormone in the brain that is important for sleep initiation, however, it is only released by the brain when it senses darkness and ceases to produce when we are exposed to light. Melatonin can also be produced externally, in labs, where the supplement can be purchased in the form of a pill, chewable tablet, or liquid to help combat sleep difficulties.

    Can Melatonin Help Children Fall Asleep?

    Research studies have shown that melatonin can help children (who experience difficulties with falling asleep)  fall asleep more quickly and improve their total amount of sleep. Additionally, a study reported that the use of melatonin in children was proven effective against the onset of sleep problems in 88% of children with ADHD.

    In a study of 27 children with ADHD and insomnia, researchers found that melatonin facilitated a decrease in insomnia symptoms and led children to fall asleep an average of 16 minutes earlier than children with ADHD who did not take a melatonin supplement.

    While the proper use and dosage of melatonin is safe for children in the short term, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises parents to work closely with their child’s pediatrician before administering melatonin supplements on their own.

    How Much Melatonin to Give a Child

    According to research, the proper dosage of melatonin depends on how and why you plan to use it. Doctors suggest starting your child on the lowest dose (usually 0.5mg or 1mg) 30 to 90 minutes before bedtime. In addition, children who benefit from utilizing melatonin as a sleep aid do not need more than 3 to 6mg.

    Always talk with your child’s pediatrician about the proper use and dosage of melatonin. Most importantly, melatonin should never replace proper sleep hygiene and a good bedtime routine. What makes for a good bedtime routine? Keep reading and the steps for this are to follow.

    Can Melatonin Help with ADHD Symptoms?

    Children with ADHD often show a pattern of behaviors that can be characterized as hyperactivity, impulsivity, inability to concentrate on tasks, interrupting during conversation, and other symptoms that interfere with overall functioning and development.

    In addition, sleep problems for ADHD kids are a common symptom experienced and can lead to other issues such as attention-related difficulties throughout the day. Therefore, getting consistent quality sleep is imperative for any child, with or without ADHD to perform well in the classroom and in daily life.

    A lack of quality sleep can lead to issues such as decreased attention, impaired memory, poor decision making, slowed processing speed, and irritability, which can exacerbate the symptoms associated with ADHD.

    We know that melatonin can help children sleep better at night, but it is unclear whether melatonin helps improve ADHD symptoms. The bottom line is- more research is needed to better understand the benefits of taking melatonin to help manage ADHD symptoms.

    Side Effects of Melatonin

    Short-term use of melatonin has few side effects and is generally well accepted by most individuals and children who take it. The most common side effects of melatonin are: 

    • Day-time drowsiness
    • Headaches
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea
    • Increased risk of bed-wetting

    However, these side effects are experienced by only a small percentage of children who take melatonin.

     Long-term side effects of melatonin use are generally unknown. Considering the long-term effects are unclear, parents are encouraged to consult with their children’s doctor about the use of melatonin and overall health. Discover more melatonin alternatives for children here.

    Tips to Consider

    • Some dietary supplements might interact with prescribed medications.
    • Use of over-the-counter melatonin might place children at risk of an accidental or intentional overdose.
    • Parents should ensure that they are storing melatonin safely in the home, out of reach from children and teens.

    How to Help Your Child Go to Sleep

    While melatonin might offer relief and help your child fall asleep more effectively, other sleep hygiene techniques and healthy sleeping habits should be implemented before bed to improve the quality of sleep in your child. Helping your child with ADHD sleep better is possible! The following steps should be considered:

    Consistency in Daily Routines

    Children with ADHD often benefit from having a supportive daily routine in place. This can include waking up around the same time every day, even on weekends to create a stable environment and instill healthy sleeping patterns. Doing homework and chores at around the same time each day and making sure your child is getting adequate nutrition and hydration, can help set your child up for success!

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    Physical Activity During the Day

    Research suggests that physical exercise can help children with ADHD manage their core symptoms. With that said, allowing your child to engage in active hobbies can significantly improve sleep duration and quality of sleep. Not only does physical exercise help your child sleep better and feel well rested in the morning, but it can also improve mood and focus in children with ADHD. Other benefits of children with ADHD engaging in exercise include:

    • Better engagement in tasks
    • Improved cognitive performance
    • Improvement in reading and mathematics skills
    • Lower levels of ADHD depression, anxiety, and aggression
    • Improvement in executive functioning abilities 

    Limit Technology Before Bed

    There is growing evidence of the effects of blue light on our circadian rhythm or the sleep-wake cycle. Researchers found that blue light from phones, iPads, and computers reduces the amount of naturally produced melatonin, further delaying our ability to fall asleep.

    Pediatricians and sleep experts alike have been encouraging parents to limit their child’s use of technology and shutting off screens at least one hour before bedtime. Some parents even recommend shutting off screens two hours before bed, just to be safe.

    Calming Techniques Before Bed

    Adding a routine before bed that will help your child wind down for the night can be a beneficial part of your child getting quality sleep. Not only is this helpful for a child with ADHD, but it can be helpful for children who have a difficult time relaxing at the end of a long day. Any of the following calming activities can be made a part of you and your child’s nighttime routine: 

    • Reading a book
    • Listening to music
    • Breathing exercises
    • Meditation or Stretching
    • Drinking caffeine-free tea
    • Taking a bath

    Sleep Environment is Important

    This may come off as common sense, but other critical aspects of your child falling and staying asleep can include things like controlling the temperature of the room, making sure the room is dark, cleanliness of the room, and controlling for other important supplemental parts of the environment (favorite stuffed animal nearby, nightlight on, etc.). Of course, these can be individualized based on your child’s needs and interests. For example, this can include:

    • Moving objects around so they do not cast a scary shadow
    • Moving the bed to another place in the room
    • Letting your child choose their own bedding and pajamas


    At least 55% to 74% of children with ADHD have symptoms of insomnia, which include difficulty falling and staying asleep. Research suggests that the over-the-counter sleep aid, melatonin, may be a short-term solution to help children with ADHD achieve quality sleep. 

    With relatively few side effects, melatonin can also help reduce issues that are commonly associated with lack of sufficient sleep, such as decreased attention, slower processing speed, and a decline in memory. 

    Research indicated that melatonin is safe for children, on a short-term basis, and that it is unclear whether there are long-term side effects associated with melatonin use. While melatonin use can help your child achieve a good night’s sleep, other behavioral techniques should also be consistently implemented to establish an effective bedtime routine.

    Lastly, because the research in this area is so limited, make sure to consult with your child’s doctor before you make any changes to your child’s medication regimen, or before you choose to include a supplement like melatonin in your child’s nighttime routine. If a child’s insomnia is severe and causes disruption at home or in school, it might be a good idea to speak with a professional who has knowledge of ADHD in children.


    Dr. Brittany Ferri, PhD

    Brittany is a registered and licensed occupational therapist who holds a PhD in Integrative Mental Health. She is the owner of a writing and consulting company called Simplicity of Health. She has direct experience in program development, behavioral health, pediatrics, and telehealth. She has published five books, lectured at 20+ OT/OTA programs, and has been quoted as a health expert by NBC News, WebMD, CNN, and other outlets.


    Dr. Brittany Ferri, PhD

    Brittany is a registered and licensed occupational therapist who holds a PhD in Integrative Mental Health. She is the owner of a writing and consulting company called Simplicity of Health. She has direct experience in program development, behavioral health, pediatrics, and telehealth. She has published five books, lectured at 20+ OT/OTA programs, and has been quoted as a health expert by NBC News, WebMD, CNN, and other outlets.