It’s 2 am and your kid is having trouble sleeping. You’ve stayed up late with them for the last 3 days and you’re really feeling the effects of sleep deprivation. You’ve tried your best to help them by establishing bedtimes and get them what they need but it doesn’t seem to be working.
You’re worried about how the lack of sleep is affecting your child so you go to your pediatrician and you ask about melatonin.
What is Melatonin
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone, produced by our pineal gland, that helps our bodies sleep. Our bodies know when to produce it with the amount of daylight. As the sun goes down melatonin production rises and when the daylight increases in the morning the hormone decreases.
This “sleep hormone” helps to set our internal clock or circadian rhythm, and has also been found to play other important roles in our bodies.
Melatonin supplements are synthetic melatonin that mimics the effects, while not suppressing the body’s natural production. Most of the time it’s used for sleep support.
How much sleep does my child need?
While the quantity of sleep does vary depending on the person, here are the general standards.
Infants (4 - 12 months): 12 to 16 hours of sleep (this includes naps)
Toddlers (1 - 2 years): 11 to 14 hours of sleep (this includes naps)
Preschoolers (3 - 5 years): 10 to 13 hours of sleep (this includes naps)
Grade schoolers (6 - 12 years): 9 to 12 hours of sleep
Teens (13 - 18 years): 8 to 10 hours of sleep
Getting the sleep they need can help kids thrive! Children with enough sleep tend to have healthier immune systems, better behavior, mental health, memory, and perform better at school.
What are the benefits of Melatonin?
Melatonin has been shown to help children to fall asleep faster and sleep longer. Also helping in cases of jet lag, sleep or hyperactivity disorders, autism, and other conditions that affect their sleep. In an analysis of 13 studies, it was found children with neurodevelopmental disorders tend to have more difficulty falling asleep but with the support of melatonin on average, they were able to sleep faster and longer. They found it to be safe and effective in improving their sleep. Similar results are found for healthy kids and teenagers.
While Melatonin can be an effective short-term solution, it’s not intended for long-term use. It can be a great way to help kids as you are establishing good sleep habits and routines. Since there can be several reasons why children might have trouble sleeping, it’s always best to talk to a pediatrician to see if it’s a beneficial sleep support for your child.
Is it safe? And how should I use it?
Melatonin has shown to be safe and effective for children. While there can be a few side effects, such as headaches, morning grogginess, urination at night, or more, in general, short-term use of melatonin is relatively safe and can be beneficial. Further studies on the effects of long-term use are still needed.
It’s always best to talk to a doctor if you’re considering melatonin for your child if they are struggling to fall or stay asleep. Melatonin should not be a replacement for a good bedtime routine. Using it for occasional sleep support to establish a good night routine and healthy sleeping habits is its best use.
Timing can be important when it comes to taking a melatonin supplement. It should be taken about 30-90 minutes before bedtime and help set your child’s internal clock. They also only need a low dose for the intended results (about 0.5 mg or 1 mg).
Other ways to help your child sleep
While melatonin can be great for occasional sleep support, it’s not a sleeping pill. It’s always best to start with good sleep habits to improve sleep! Here are some other ways to support your child’s sleeping habits.
Limit Blue Light
The use of technology before bedtime can confuse melatonin production, disrupting the sleep cycle. Limiting technology by 1 or 2 hours before bedtime can improve sleep quality and help them fall asleep faster.
Have a Bedtime Routine
For younger children, bedtime routines can help them to relax and let their bodies know it’s time for bed. This includes having a set bedtime which can aid in training their internal clocks. This helps them to fall asleep and wake up around the same time every day. Consider a bath and things that help them relax to improve their routine and sleep habits.
Use Cool Temperatures
For some kids, it’s hard to sleep when they are too warm so cooler temperatures can help. Dim the lights before bedtime and set the temperature on low.
Get Sunlight and Be Active During the Day
It’s always good to have physical activity and fresh air during the day! Having varied daily activities not only creates a regular daily routine for your kids but also helps with their energy. Sunlight exposure also helps with sleep and natural melatonin production, helping them to fall asleep faster and longer.
Melatonin can be great occasional sleep support for your child as you’re setting up healthy sleep practices. Studies show it’s safe with few side effects to help your kids fall asleep faster and longer. Consider talking to your pediatrician if you’re looking to have your kids take melatonin. Other tips to help your kids with their sleep habits include creating bedtime routines, helping your kids relax before bed, and being active during the day with plenty of sunlight.*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.