A recent unofficial survey of twenty random families with school age children in the Five Towns area revealed a startling fact: Some forty percent of these families use Melatonin as a sleeping aid for their children. And even worse – some of these children have shown signs of addiction.
Melatonin is a hormone that is found naturally in the body. It serves to adjust our internal clocks.
Available in a good-tasting and kosher certified by the Orthodox Union, one of the more popular forms of this sleep aid is called “Melo-Chews” and some families go through bottles of it. “In our family,” one of the surveyed family members remarked, “my mom takes it, my sisters take it, I take it, and my father uses it sometimes as well.”
On account of its remarkable effectiveness in getting kids to sleep and of the availability in good tasting kosher pill form, we have become a Melatonin Nation.
But to quote an oft-used expression, is all this popping of Melo-Chews good for the Jews?
The answer, according to experts is quite clearly, “No.”
In many recent studies, excessive use of Melatonin has been implicated in a rise in fatigue, insomnia, bed-wetting, head-aches, dizziness, and surprisingly, a greater propensity for seizures. It is also very addictive. “Melatonin given in pill form often shuts down production of the body’s natural production of it,” remarked a health teacher in a local Yeshiva, “and this can result in addiction.”
In January of 2010, the F.D.A. sent a warning letter to Peter Bianchi, the creator of Drank, a purple drink with 2 milligrams of melatonin in each can that went on the market in 2008, spawning several competitors. The letter cited safety concerns about melatonin in food, specifically research indicating that melatonin reduced glucose tolerance for people with Type 1 diabetes and that some men using it had reported enlarged breasts. It also warned that women who are pregnant or trying to conceive should avoid melatonin “based on possible hormonal effects.”
Why are Five Towns parents giving their children this synthetic drug?
“Bedtime used to take me two hours every night. Now it takes me fifteen minutes and my children do better in school. Why shouldn’t I give it to them?” remarked one mother of five children.
“I am just planning on doing it for one more month, until my daughter gets into a good sleep cycle,” remarked another.
In a recent examination of the issue on CBSNews.com, Dr. Saul Rothenberg, a board-certified behavioral sleep medicine specialist at North Shore-LIJ Sleep Disorders Center in Great Neck made the following comment: “Using melatonin to improve sleep in children may be relatively safe, but medicalizes a problem of childhood that is better addressed behaviorally.”
So it is better to avoid the drug. But how does one suddenly stop?
One high school aged girl remarked, “I have heard my sister one night yelling at my mother, ‘I need my melatonin!’ when my mother decided to go easy on the pills – she said that she will put it in her orange juice. She didn’t, but that’s how my mother got her off it.”