Findings of a cross-sectional study published in JAMA Pediatrics suggested that approximately 6% of children — or one in 17 — are given melatonin for sleep problems.

“Many children take over-the-counter melatonin that their parents provide, especially if they have sleep problems,” Henning Tiemeier, MD, PhD, a professor of social and behavioral science and the Sumner and Esther Feldberg Chair of Maternal and Child Health in the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University, told Infectious Diseases in Children.

“Pediatricians should advise families on melatonin use and alert them that we do not know about the side effects and efficacy of melatonin for sleep problems due to lack of research. This absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of no side effects.”