Parents, it’s been a long day. You’ve finally put your child to bed and you’re looking forward to a little me time. But you hear them getting up and yelling the dreaded phrase every parent hates to hear, “I can’t sleep!” It’s often challenging to put your children to sleep in the first place and it’s even more challenging when they wake you up soon after going down or when they wake up in the middle of the night. Taking a sleep supplement that contains melatonin is one way adults can get back to sleep. But should you give melatonin to your child?
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone that your brain produces in response to darkness. This helps with your circadian rhythms (24 hour internal clock) and with sleep. The production and release of melatonin in the brain increases when it’s dark and decreases when it’s light. Melatonin concentrations are quite low in infants three months and younger and their circadian systems are still developing. Melatonin production declines with age.
Melatonin and Children
Sleep problems in children can have undesirable effects on their behavior, daytime functioning, and quality of life. Children with certain health conditions are more prone to experience sleep problems than other children. And some children naturally fall asleep later than parents might like. However, neither of these scenarios mean the child needs melatonin.
Generally, melatonin should not be given to healthy, developing children under the age of 3 since sleep difficulties during this time period are usually environmental or behavioral in nature. Giving melatonin to children or even young teens on a regular basis can actually cause more harm than good. Since melatonin is a hormone, it may have an impact on development and puberty. So don’t incorporate melatonin into your child’s bedtime routine permanently. Only use it when necessary or as prescribed.
Whether you choose to give your child melatonin or not, teaching your child healthy bedtime habits helps them have a consistent bedtime routine that will not only help them get a better sleep, but help you too.
Here are some tips:
Note: these tips will vary based on the needs of your child and their age:
- Establish a set bedtime. Routines help your child expect when they should go to sleep every night.
- Set a wakeup time. Waking up early will make them more tired when they actually need to go to sleep at the end of the day.
- Put away any electronics an hour before bedtime and keep them away from your child’s bedroom.
- Create a relaxing environment for your child. Bathing, reading and listening to calming music, are just a few good options.
- Keep your child’s bedroom dark and cool. If they’re afraid of the dark, night lights are perfectly fine.
- When waking up your child in the morning, open up the curtains/windows to expose them to natural sunlight.
Before deciding to use melatonin for your child’s sleep challenges, be sure to speak with a pediatrician, sleep medicine specialist, or a family doctor. They are the experts and can advise you on this topic. Also, keep melatonin hidden and out of reach of children. They may think it’s a gummy candy that they can snack on.
If you have been advised by an expert to give your child a melatonin sleep aid or melatonin pills, your child might have problems biting or swallowing them. Melatonin gummies can be another option, however, be aware of added sugar in gummies that can actually keep your child awake! As well, consuming a sticky gummy right before bed is one of the worst things for your teeth and a major cavity causer. To avoid expensive and painful cavities, be sure to brush your teeth immediately after eating a gummy.
Alternatively, you can try Can-i Sleep. Can-i Sleep is an oral spray supplement that is gluten, sugar and dairy free. It also has all-natural and vegan ingredients such as melatonin, GABA, 5-HTP, and valerian root that work together to help you fall asleep quicker, stay asleep longer, and wake up refreshed or your money back. Can-i Sleep is not recommended for children but it can definitely help parents get back to sleep after their sleep is interrupted by restless little ones.