The crying, screaming and two hour night time bed routine is driving you crazy.
You don’t seem to have time or energy to do anything else after a nighttime battle of wits with your 3-year-old. So, you hear about melatonin for kids. And, you ask yourself should I try this? Will it help or create problems later on?
Most importantly, are there any side effects of using melatonin to help my child fall asleep easier?
What is Melatonin?
First off, the melatonin that you can buy over the counter at most retail and drug and stores is a synthetic form of a hormone that our brains naturally produce to help us fall asleep.
Simply put, melatonin is a hormone primarily released by the pineal gland that regulates the sleep-wake cycle.
Consequently, it is normally released in the evening, stimulated by darkness. In the morning and during the day, it is normally not produced in the body.
Certainly, melatonin helps regulate the circadian clocks that control not only our sleep/wake cycles but virtually every function of the body.
To clarify, synthetic or over-the-counter melatonin imitates the effects of the melatonin production in the body.
Consequently, there have been several studies suggest that the use of over the counter (OTC) melatonin does not suppress the body’s natural production of the hormone. However, it is important to know that not all OTC melatonins are created the same.
In other words, there tends to be a variation of levels of melatonin content that is actually listed on the labels. Therefore, it is recommended that you use pharmaceutical grade melatonin if you are looking for consistent results.
Is Melatonin for Kids Safe?
As there are many experts in the field of child sleep, you will find just as many opinions to go with the experts.
NaturalSleep.org states that “Melatonin, according to more than 24 studies, is safe for children and has been used with little to no side effects.”.
Medscape goes on to say, “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 really test that.”
In other words, OTC melatonin seems to have relatively few side effects in children, most of them minor, such as headaches, increased bedwetting, nightmares, dizziness, mood changes, and morning grogginess, and all of which disappear with discontinuation.
Will Melatonin Help?
Certainly, there is plenty of scientific evidence proving that melatonin can shorten the time to fall asleep in children.
Also, melatonin can be an effective short-term solution to address your child’s bedtime problems during sleep training.
Further, children with neurodevelopmental disorders and ADHD may benefit from longer-term use in some cases.
Now, before you run off to the store to search for melatonin for kids. Keep in mind that melatonin should not be given to healthy, typically developing children under the age of 3.
Difficulties falling and staying asleep with children under the age of 3 are almost always behavioral in nature.
It is important to note, that melatonin should never be a substitute for healthy sleep practices.
Are there Alternatives?
There are certainly many alternatives that can be just as effective as the use of melatonin for kids.
To clarify, sleep training that consists of a regular, age-appropriate, and consistent bedtime along with a steady bedtime routine should always be your first step.
Research studies show that in very young children, exposure to bright light in the evening suppresses melatonin production, which has implications for use of electronic devices before bed,
In the study performed by Lameese Akacem, MS, a graduate student in the Sleep and Development Laboratory at the University of Colorado Boulder, quantified the magnitude of melatonin suppression in response to evening bright-light exposure in 10 preschool-age boys and girls.
One hour of evening bright-light exposure suppressed children’s melatonin secretion by roughly 90%,” Akacem noted in her presentation. “Melatonin levels remained suppressed for up to 50 minutes after termination of the light stimulus.
So, What are the alternatives to melatonin? No caffeine, and no electronics or TV screens before bedtime. As hard as that seems, it is possible with a little patience and a routine as mentioned above.
Above all, it is time to kick in the parental instincts that you have and read to your children before bed. As a result, you are not exposing the kids to extra light at bedtime and you will minimize time on devices.
I think the biggest reason why kids have difficulty sleeping is related to the home environment. The light exposure issue gets more important as kids get older and become teenagers in most studies.
The choice is yours
At the end of the day, The final choice whether to use an OTC melatonin product or try the alternative methods is yours to make. If you still have reservations consult your child’s doctor.
I personally give my grandson melatonin at night to help him fall asleep a little faster. I have found that it takes some of the bedtime stress away.
To clarify, there have been no noted side effects from the use of the natural children’s sleep supplement with melatonin that we use.
Just to be clear, we are working to eliminate my grandson’s screen time along utilizing sleep training techniques that I discuss in my blogs. Consequently, I will stop giving my grandson melatonin once we feel that he no longer needs it.
My intention in this article on melatonin for kids was to help educate about the use of melatonin with your child. I found that most people are not even aware that this solution exists. In other words, you don’t have to struggle and stress every night at bedtime with your child.
If you have found this article useful or have something further to add drop a comment below and I will certainly reply.