News Release

Study reveals that nearly half of foster caregivers have given melatonin to their child

New data indicate foster children given melatonin are more likely to experience poor sleep quality, behavior difficulties

Reports and Proceedings

American Academy of Sleep Medicine

DARIEN, IL – A new study to be presented at the SLEEP 2024 annual meeting found that it is common for foster caregivers to give melatonin to their child, and these children who have taken melatonin have worse sleep and more daytime behavioral problems.

Results show that 48% of foster caregivers reported administering melatonin to their child. Children given melatonin had poorer overall sleep quality compared to children not given melatonin, yet even after adjustment for sleep quality and other potential confounders, melatonin use was associated with increased severity of daytime behavioral problems in foster children. However, melatonin use was not associated with symptoms of depression or anxiety.

“These results are eye-opening given that we know almost nothing about the safety or efficacy of melatonin use in this population because not a single study has focused on children with histories of neglect, abuse, and/or other traumas,” said lead author Carter Baker, research coordinator for the Sleep and Anxiety Center of Houston at the University of Houston. “Based on our analysis, major discrepancies exist between the science and common practice for some of our most vulnerable children and these gaps urgently need to be addressed.”

According to a 2022 health advisory from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, parents should talk to a health care professional before giving melatonin or any supplement to children. In the U.S., melatonin is considered a “dietary supplement”; therefore, melatonin is not under FDA oversight like other over-the-counter or prescription medications. An increased use of the supplement in recent years has occurred along with growing reports of melatonin overdose, calls to poison control centers, and emergency room visits for children.

Survey data were collected from 454 caregivers currently fostering children between the ages of 4 and 11 years in the U.S. Questions addressed whether they had ever administered melatonin to the foster child, aspects of the child’s sleep, and emotional and behavioral problems. Children included in the sample were relatively diverse, with 17% Black/African American and 11% Hispanic children from 46 U.S. states.

“Compared to children in foster care not given melatonin, children taking melatonin were more likely to receive intensive levels of care, have younger foster caregivers, and spend more time in their current foster home on average,” Baker added. “These findings suggest that melatonin use may be associated with other variables beyond sleep, which requires further study.”

The research abstract was published recently in an online supplement of the journal Sleep and will be presented Wednesday, June 5, during SLEEP 2024 in Houston. SLEEP is the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.


Abstract TitleMelatonin Use Among Children in Foster Care: Associations with Sleep and Daytime Behavior

Abstract ID: 0805

Poster Presentation Date: Wednesday, June 5, 10-10:45 a.m. CDT, Board 161

Presenter: Carter Baker, research coordinator for the Sleep and Anxiety Center of Houston at the University of Houston

About the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, LLC

The APSS is a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society. The APSS organizes the SLEEP annual meeting each June (

About the American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Established in 1975, the AASM advances sleep care and enhances sleep health to improve lives. The AASM has a combined membership of 12,000 accredited sleep centers and individuals, including physicians, scientists and other health care professionals who care for patients with sleep disorders. As the leader in the sleep field, the AASM sets standards and promotes excellence in sleep medicine health care, education and research (

About the Sleep Research Society 

The SRS is a professional membership society that advances sleep and circadian science. The SRS provides forums for the exchange of information, establishes and maintains standards of reporting and classifies data in the field of sleep research, and collaborates with other organizations to foster scientific investigation on sleep and its disorders. The SRS also publishes the peer-reviewed, scientific journals Sleep and Sleep Advances (

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