Day Care Workers Charged With Giving Kids Sleep Supplement

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Two former Ohio day care workers have been charged with giving children an over-the-counter dietary supplement to make them sleep.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters announced misdemeanor charges Wednesday against Pamela Hartley and Donna Scott. Allegations surfaced in December involving Springfield Township Covenant Apostolic Church Day Care in suburban Cincinnati.

A news release from Deters' office says the women are accused of giving children melatonin to make them sleepy at nap time.

“This is highly inappropriate and dangerous,” Dr. Manny Alvarez, managing editor of health at said. “Young children already make large quantities of natural melatonin, and to supplement it could potentially create an overdose situation. It is unanimously accepted that children should not be given any kind of pharmaceutical aid to help with sleep and we should instead be implementing natural ways of organizing their sleep habits.”

Alvarez said potential side effects of taking melatonin supplements include depression, irritability and even anxiety.

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain by the pineal gland and helps control your natural sleep-wake cycle, the Mayo Clinic said on its Web site. Natural levels of melatonin in the blood are the highest before bedtime. However, there is little evidence that taking melatonin supplements will help you fall as faster or help you stay asleep longer, according to the Web site.

In addition, the studies involving melatonin supplements in children are limited and safety of the product has not been established. Before starting any supplement regimen, you should always consult with your physician first.

Hartley and Scott are charged with three counts of misrepresentation by a child care provider and three counts of child endangering.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.