A May 27th article in USA Today reported on the increase in use of melatonin supplements by parents to get their children to sleep at night.

The article sites an 11% increase in sales of the supplement (available over the counter at pharmacies and health food stores) in 2006.

Lynne Bruton, of Abilene, Tex, told USA Today that it has been 2 years since she started giving her oldest son, then 12 years old, melatonin before bed. “It’s been great… with three kids, it has changed the dynamic of getting the kids ready in the morning,” Bruton told USA Today.

The article goes on to show that Lynne Bruton is not alone in her turning to melatonin supplements for bedtime help.

Melatonin is usually produced by the pineal gland in the brain, and it helps regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle, through its production being determined by cycles of light and dark. Though supplements of the hormone have proven safe for helping adults with jet lag and children who have insomnia, many pediatricians shy away from prescribing it to children.

The article points out that nearly all of the studies of melatonin on children were done on those with autism or other developmental diseases. This leaves its long-term effects on children without developmental disorders relatively unclear, which could explain doctors’ reluctance to prescribe the hormone.