The Low-Down on Melatonin Supplements
As a child sleep consultant, a lot of parents ask me about giving their child melatonin supplements to help improve sleep. How amazing would it be if we could fix all sleep problems with a little pill!?
We aren’t medical professionals so we can’t recommend or dissuade you from using melatonin. The purpose of this article is to provide insight into melatonin and melatonin supplements. This will help guide your chat with your pediatrician to determine if they are right for your child.
The information in this article is purely educational, and not medical advice. Please consult your child’s pediatrician if you have questions about melatonin supplements or anything having to do with the health of your child. Your pediatrician knows your child and your family best and can give advice specific to your situation.
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone that is made by the pineal gland, which is in the brain. It helps to control the body’s sleep/wake clock by helping the body to fall asleep. The only exception is newborns! Babies don’t start making their own melatonin until around 3 months.
Melatonin levels rise at night to aid in falling asleep, and as morning draws near, melatonin levels decrease to enable your body to wake up.
Melatonin production is also affected by light exposure. The production and release of melatonin in the brain is connected to time of day. It increases when it’s dark and decreases when it’s light.
Are Melatonin Supplements Safe For Children?
Mayo Clinic recognizes melatonin supplements as “generally safe for short-term use” because they are not habit-forming and do not impede the body’s natural abilities.
Melatonin supplements are widely recognized as safe, but it is helpful to note that the long-term effects, specifically for children, are not well researched at this time.
Melatonin supplements are also not without side effects; according to Mayo Clinic the most common side effects are headache, dizziness, nausea, and drowsiness.
Can Melatonin Supplements Help With My Child’s Sleep Challenges?
This is a question for your pediatrician. But it is important to note that melatonin only helps with initially falling asleep. Melatonin supplements won’t help with other sleep challenges like night wakings or early morning wake-ups.
I’ve personally found melatonin supplements useful (with the guidance of my pediatrician) for getting back on track after some short-term sleep disruptions like adjusting to a new time zone or during travel. Jet lag is the worst!
What Do I Do If I Want To Move Away From Melatonin Gummies?
My education in child psychology and experience as a sleep consultant tells me that in most neurotypical children, melatonin supplements aren’t usually necessary.
Instead, we can harness the science of sleep and the biology that already exists within all bodies to help your child learn healthy sleep habits by focusing on:
- Creating the ideal sleep environment (cool, dark, & quiet with white noise)
- Implementing a soothing bedtime routine and an early bedtime
- Limit screen time at least 1 hour before bedtime
- Help your child to learn new, independent sleep associations so that they can fall asleep more easily at bedtime
If you need help with achieving peaceful bedtimes without sleep aids, we’d love to chat with you! Book an intro call to learn how one of our certified child sleep consultants can help.
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