parent opinion

DEAR DOCTOR: 'The only way I can keep a full-time job is to give my kids sleep gummies.'

Dear Doctor, 

I have three kids and my husband and I both work full time, in very full-on jobs. 

Most days I need to leave work before my team to pick the kids up and then do the dinner, bath and bed routine. To be perfectly honest, it’s really tough, and the only way to keep performing at the level I am, is to work at night once everyone is asleep. 

However, my kids, especially the eldest, are terrible at falling asleep. They are completely fine once they are asleep but the bedtime routine can drag… The eldest demands stories, back tickles, podcasts and me to be there the whole time. The entire process can take up to two hours and can make me - and her - so frustrated. 

Watch: Is Melatonin Safe for Kids to use?. Post continues after video.

Video via Youtube

I have started giving them sleep gummies with some melatonin in them - and I notice a big difference. They fall asleep easier and quicker, and I’m able to have a nice time with them without anyone getting frustrated. We can read stories and then they fall asleep next to me in a timely manner. I can then get all my work done. It's starting to feel like the only way I can get on top of everything.

I've read mixed reports on gummies and every time I do it, I get this pang of guilt. Now they have even started asking for their "bed lolly". Eeeek. 

Is it okay to give kids these gummies?


Love, Just Trying To Do It All.



Hi Just Trying To Do It All, 

I completely get it. Having a child, let alone three, with sleeping issues is overwhelming, frustrating and tests the limits of our sanity. It is an issue that affects the entire household with both adults and children being exhausted and filled with heightened emotions day in and day out. Everyone wants a solution that is quick, easy and safe to help youngsters (and their parents) get a good night’s sleep. 

Melatonin supplements feel like it could be all those things as it a synthetic version of a naturally occurring hormone in the body that promotes sleep onset and duration. It comes in a tasty and fun gummy form that kids love to eat and is promoted as a safe sleeping aid for children.

Use of melatonin has become commonplace in Australian households. One study in Qld demonstrated that 70 per cent of families are using melatonin to help their children sleep through the night. A US study revealed a 500 per cent increase in the sale of melatonin containing products in the last 10 years. This has also come with an associated increase in calls to poisons hotlines regarding melatonin adverse effects and suspected overdoses.  

I truly wish it was the magic pill we’re all looking for, however, the reality is that there are safety concerns about the use of melatonin in children with GPs and paediatricians feeling unsure what the long-term effects of this over-the-counter medication may be. The most significant of which are early studies showing that regular melatonin supplements may delay puberty and development. 

Currently the Therapeutic Goods Administration (Australia) has only approved melatonin for use in paediatric patients with autism spectrum disorder or other neurodevelopmental disorders where we know lower levels of melatonin are produced in the body. And recommends it should only be prescribed after a trial of sleep hygiene measures. 


So, what are the medical concerns regarding melatonin use? Firstly, over-the-counter supplements are unregulated and my biggest concern with this that dosing on the bottle is not always accurate. 

The supplements come in an attractive gummy form meaning a child could easily overdose if they gain access to the home supply causing toxicity including significant gastrointestinal upset. We also know that common side effects of regular melatonin can including day time fatigue and behaviour change meaning kids may become unsettled at school. 

Use of melatonin can also distract from the focus on sleep training, which is challenging for families, but long term the most successful way to treat sleep issues in children. If your child is having sleep issues always talk to your GP. We need to rule out any underlying causes, for example sleep apnoea or sinusitis. We can also help you with strategies to assist with sleep training and give information about sleep hygiene. And advise if we think melatonin may be suitable in your child. 

In this case going to the GP is the best solution. I want you to know that you’re not alone and doctors are here to support you, so please reach out for help and they can work on a solution together with you. 

Dr Rebecca Goadby is a General Practitioner who is passionate about the health of women through every stage of their lives. Her approach is compassionate and holistic, with a focus on preventative medicine and mental health wellbeing.

Information found in this column is not meant to be a substitute for proper medical advice – please contact your doctor or a health professional to discuss your own medical needs.

Do you have a burning question you'd love Dr Rebecca to answer? Send us an email ( with the subject line 'DEAR DOCTOR' for consideration.

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