Children need significantly more sleep than adults do. We’ve all seen young children melting-down in the middle of aisle three because it’s passed their nap time. Older kids are much the same. If you’ve ever tried to wake a teenager up for school in the morning, you’re pretty familiar with the angst that might ensue.
If you’ve got a tired child in your home that’s unable to catch up on their z’s, we genuinely feel for you. When children lack the sleep they need, they can become forgetful, become irritable, have difficulties with maintaining motivation, have increased stress levels.
Sleep can become disturbed for any number of reasons in children. The best thing to do is help them try to get back to their regular sleep routine whenever possible. One option for helping your child get back to proper sleep is through the use of melatonin for kids.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in our bodies that comes from the pineal gland in our brains. Your pineal gland makes melatonin depending on the amount of light you’re exposed to during the day. Your circadian rhythm, also known as your internal clock, helps regulate the amount of melatonin made too.
So, all these things factor into your sleep-wake cycles. You can take melatonin supplements if your sleep cycle has been disturbed to help you get some sleep.
How Does Melatonin Work?
Although melatonin occurs naturally in the body, there are many instances when you made need help falling asleep. As a natural sleep aid, melatonin can be used to help your body get ready for sleep. When your body is exposed to darkness, it produces melatonin, which helps trigger your body for rest.
If melatonin production has been blocked for any reason, taking the supplement will help trigger the same response in the body – putting you in a more-drowsy state, making it easier to fall asleep. Melatonin for kids is melatonin in a small dosage, typically 1mg to 3mg that’s generally been ruled a safe dosing for kids.
Is Melatonin Safe For Kids?
There are differing opinions among the medical community regarding the safety of melatonin for kids. Dr. Judith Owens, the director of the Sleep Center at Boston’s Children’s Hospital, believes that it’s likely safe, but notes that no one knows for sure.
- According to Medscape, “Currently, we don’t have any evidence to say that taking melatonin daily in that sense is harmful, although there are no large-scale multicenter clinical trials to test that.”
- According to Natural Sleep, Melatonin, according to more than 24 studies, is safe for children and has been used with little to no side effects. However, it is advised that treatment should only be continued for a maximum of a few weeks; safety has not been evaluated for more extended periods.
It seems that the safety of the supplement is generally accepted when melatonin is used on a limited basis, in the short term, or only for occasional use. There are many instances where a child can’t sleep because they’ve gotten off their sleep routine, are experiencing stress, or had a more exciting evening than usual. Melatonin is typically used for short-term reasons.
Children experiencing long-term sleeplessness or disturbances to their sleep would benefit more from resolving the underlying issue related to their sleeplessness.
Melatonin is a dietary supplement. According to the FDA, the “FDA is not authorized to review dietary supplement products for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed.” That means that the brand or manufacturer themselves is responsible for ensuring the safety of the product they’re bringing to market.
Without federal guidelines, supplement-makers aren’t bound to any regulations within their products. It’s best to stick to trusted brands you know well. Many pediatricians will recommend well-known brands to families that they use themselves. Never use a brand you’ve never heard of or can’t find research on.
Alternatives to Melatonin
Melatonin should be used more as a last resort. It should be used more for one-time use or to help get your child back into their normal sleep cycle over a few days after their sleep has been disturbed. Melatonin is not a fix-all supplement that should be used on an ongoing basis to mask sleeping problems in your child.
Instead of using melatonin, your child can try these things to help them get back to their natural sleep rhythm:
- Cut back on screen time – screen time should end 1-2 hours before bed because your body needs darkness to signal the production of melatonin naturally. Too much light exposure before bed can block melatonin production and leave your child unable to fall asleep.
- Avoid caffeine – drinks or foods with caffeine should be avoided late in the afternoons and evenings. Caffeine has a half-life of 6 hours. That means that half of the amount of caffeine consumed is still in the bloodstream 6 hours later.
- Sleep routines – for long-term solutions to sleep disturbances, adopting a night-time routine that begins at least an hour before bed can help your child’s body wind-down and prepare for sleep.
Find out the cause of your child’s sleepness can help you solve the issue without supplements. For example, if it’s stress-related, takings steps to lower stress, especially in the hours just before bed, can help your child return to sleep naturally.
Top 8 Melatonin Recommendations
Not all melatonin supplements are made the same or come from credible companies. If you need to use melatonin supplements with your child, consult your pediatrician first. Here are the top recommendations for melatonin supplements for kids.
It’s always best to consult your child’s doctor before choosing to give any supplements. The dosage your child requires will depend on his age. Remember that melatonin should be used only as indicated, for one-time use or very infrequent use, it should never be given for a period longer than two weeks. If sleep disturbances persist, exploring the topic further with your doctor may be in order.
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