More U.S. Children Doing Yoga, Taking Sleep Supplements

from A growing number of American children are bending into downward dog
and other yoga poses, according to a new report on complementary health

The report analyzed National Health Interview Survey
data on practices outside of mainstream medicine and found significantly
more kids and teens practicing yoga, tai chi and qi gong in 2012 than
in 2007.

The study also showed a significant increase in the
number of children using melatonin supplements as sleep aids. Melatonin
is a natural hormone known to play a role in sleep.

originated in India more than 5,000 years ago, and the mind-body
practice has become so popular in the west that yoga studios are as
common in parts of California as Starbucks coffeehouses.

The new
study, published in National Health Statistics Reports, included 17,321
interviews with adults about their 4- to 17-year-olds.

Overall, 3.1 percent of kids did yoga in 2012, up from 2.3 percent in 2007.

Industry data shows a nearly 8 percent
increase in the number of yoga instructors during the same five years,
the study authors write. In addition, they say, public schools are
beginning to incorporate yoga – which fosters stretching, relaxing and
developing strength – into fitness programs.

The increase in
children’s use of yoga and melatonin was a surprise to Dr. Josephine
Briggs, director of the National Center for Complementary and
Integrative Health (NCCIH).

“The changes in the yoga category are
very large,” she told Reuters Health. “I was also struck by the use of
melatonin in children.”

In 2007, an estimated 1.3 million children
did yoga, tai chi or qi gong, senior author Richard Nahin said at a
news conference. The number grew to 1.9 million children in 2012, he

Researchers included the Chinese practices of tai chi and qi
gong in the analysis because they are also mind-body practices, and
their inclusion bolstered the sample sizes and the statistical power of
the findings.

Girls were four times more likely to practice yoga, tai chi or qi gong in the prior year than boys, the study found.

Use of melatonin increased 700 percent, from 0.1 percent to 0.7 percent of children, between 2007 and 2012, Nahin said.

said she knew of no safety issues regarding melatonin for children.
Rising use of the supplements may reflect burgeoning concern over use of
benzodiazepines, a class of sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs prescribed
for sleep problems
, she said.

“Use of conventional sleeping
pills, like benzodiazepines, is of some concern,” she said. “Melatonin
is a product that has a good safety profile.”

Nonetheless, Briggs advises parents to discuss the use of yoga, melatonin and any health practices with their pediatricians.

addition to yoga and melatonin, researchers looked at dietary
supplements other than vitamins and minerals as well as chiropractic or
osteopathic manipulation, meditation, acupuncture, massage, homeopathy
and biofeedback.

Children with private health insurance were more
likely to use chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation than children
with public coverage. In 2012, children whose parents had more than a
high school education were seven times more likely to use a
complementary health approach as children whose parents had not
completed high school, the study found.

The results don’t explain
why a higher level of parental education led to more complementary
health practices for children, Nahin told Reuters Health. But, he said,
more educated parents might be better equipped to identify complementary
approaches and practitioners.

Wendy Weber, NCCIH branch chief for
clinical research, said complementary medicine holds “some areas of
great promise.” In particular, she cited probiotics and
mindfulness-based stress reduction.

During the news conference,
Weber advised parents to ask their teenagers about weight-loss and
sports-enhancement products and to keep in mind that children are not
just small adults.

“While most of the body-mind approaches seem
relatively safe, we don’t know if they’re appropriate for all children,”
she said. “Just because it’s something natural, doesn’t mean that it’s
always safe to use.”

She urged parents to consult healthcare professionals whenever children show symptoms.

“It’s extremely important not to delay treatment with a known, proven therapy,” she said.

National Health Statistics Reports, February 10, 2015.

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