Not being able to sleep is an issue that plagues people of all ages. However, when kids can’t sleep, it becomes an issue for both the child and their caretaker.
If your kid has trouble sleeping, you won’t get a full night of rest until their insomnia is cured. This means you could go weeks without a good night’s sleep. Nobody wants that… So what should you do? Giving a child medications seems too aggressive at such a young age—but maybe a supplement? Maybe melatonin gummies could work?
Here’s what you need to know.
What Does Melatonin Do?
Melatonin supplements are made to imitate the natural melatonin hormone your body produces. It helps you regulate your body’s internal clock and encourage a normal wake-sleep cycle.
By binding receptors at night, melatonin can naturally relax your body and send the message that it’s time to sleep. Melatonin can help you fall asleep faster and maintain a more restful sleep for a longer period of time.
For people who have trouble regulating their sleep patterns because of issues falling asleep or because their internal clock has been disrupted by travel or an all-nighter, melatonin can be a very helpful tool.
The Pros and Cons of Melatonin
Giving your child any type of medication or supplement can be scary, especially if you’re worried they may develop a long-term dependence. However, melatonin is a hormone that your body naturally produces, and the supplements are simply made to imitate what is already present in your child’s body. Melatonin is generally safe for your child when used under the guidance of a pediatrician.
Even so, you should understand the pros and cons of anything that your child consumes.
Pros of Melatonin
Melatonin is unique because it is a dietary supplement that has been shown to successfully support restful sleep. Because your body already produces this hormone, melatonin is a more natural sleeping aid than sleeping medications.
Melatonin is also an antioxidant. It supports multiple bodily functions, such as the overall health of your eyes and ears. Melatonin can also help you maintain healthy hormone levels and a regular body temperature.
If you choose to use melatonin, the best time to take a supplement is one to two hours before you want to sleep. Take the lowest effective dose possible, and monitor how it affects you over time.
Cons of Melatonin
Although melatonin is a natural supplement, it isn’t recommended for everyone. This is due to a lack of research on how melatonin can affect certain demographics including those with rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, or hypertension.
Although the FDA is still studying the effects of melatonin in children, it is generally considered a safe alternative to prescription medications. If a child’s sleep-wake cycle hasn’t shown improvement following changes to their bedtime routine or alternative natural sleep therapies, many doctors will suggest melatonin instead of more intense choices like prescription sleep medications.
As with other supplements, melatonin has a risk of certain side effects including:
- Daytime drowsiness
Can Children Use Melatonin?
Although it should not be the go-to for helping children get to sleep, kids can use melatonin under the guidance of a pediatrician. Doctors will commonly recommend melatonin use for children to avoid other, more intensive sleep therapies.
Children can experience the same types of side effects adults have when taking melatonin. Children may also experience the following symptoms:
- Stomach pain
- Overabundant sweating
Certain demographics are more likely to be prescribed melatonin than others. This includes children with the following health conditions:
Although it’s true that children with these conditions are more likely to be prescribed melatonin, each child is unique. Some children with these conditions won’t need a melatonin prescription, while some children who have not been diagnosed with these conditions will benefit from the use of melatonin. It is important to consult a pediatrician to determine whether melatonin is right for your child.
Are There Other Ways To Aid Sleep for Children?
Lifestyle changes that adults make for better sleep can apply to children as well, especially eating well, exercising regularly, exposure to sunlight during the day, reducing light exposure at night, and reducing blue light before bed.
However, there are some suggestions that apply specifically to children and can help their sleeping patterns in the long term.
Make a bedtime ritual and stick to it. Kids internalize consistent rituals that make them feel secure. These bedtime rituals could include reading a book before bed, having a steady bathroom schedule, or listening to music for a few minutes before lights out. When children recognize these rituals as a precursor to sleep, their bodies will be better prepared for rest.
Less screen time. Both adults and children can benefit from unplugging before bed. Reducing blue light is good for your body’s circadian rhythm, which regulates your sleep and wake schedule. Lessen the use of screens for at least an hour before bedtime.
Keep a clean bedroom. A clean camp is a happy camp. A well-organized space can help children’s overall mental well-being and set them up for good habits in the future.
Associate the bedroom with sleep, and nothing negative. Make sure children take naps and sleep only in their bed. This makes it easier for kids to associate their bed with sleep. This association can naturally help their bodies feel sleepier during bedtime. Additionally, never use naps or going to their room as a punishment. This can make your child associate their room and sleep with negativity.
Spend quality time with the kid(s) before bed. Whether you’re home full time or spend your days outside of the house, taking a few minutes before bed to connect with your kids will make your children look forward to that special moment they get with you before bed. By extension, your children will create positive feelings towards bedtime and sleep.
If staying asleep is an issue, try to find the root of the problem. Sometimes, having a kid that can’t fall or stay asleep isn’t anyone’s fault. These sleep issues could be signs of a larger problem such as nightmares or sleepwalking. If this is true, you can talk to a sleep specialist for expert advice on your child’s specific condition.
Overall, children can use melatonin supplements under the guidance of a pediatrician. Many doctors recommend melatonin due to the positive effects seen in children’s sleeping patterns after its use. If you do choose to use melatonin for your child, be sure to discuss it with a doctor first and get their help developing a treatment plan.