As a parent, you are extra aware — and tired — when your child’s not sleeping well. It impacts behavior, temperament, and learning … and patience! About 20 percent of children struggle to fall or stay asleep. This means parents or other caregivers have trouble, too.
You’ve likely heard of Melatonin. It is a naturally-induced hormone that regulates a person’s sleep/wake cycle. And you can also find Melatonin supplements in the aisle of your drug or grocery store.
Many adults take the supplement to help with sleep. And many parents also give melatonin to their children, too. Even though Melatonin is easily accessible, you should talk to your child’s pediatrician before you start giving it to them.
Considerations before choosing Melatonin for your little ones
- While it appears to be relatively safe for short-term use, Melatonin’s long-term effects have not been fully studied.
- Although the side effects are mild in most cases, Melatonin does have side effects. Morning sleepiness is the most common side effect. Other possible side effects include nightmares, headaches, agitation, dizziness, bedwetting, and diarrhea.
- Melatonin can also interact with other medications.
- Melatonin is available over-the-counter but is not regulated as a medication by the FDA. It is considered to be and is regulated as a “dietary substance.”
- There are no universally-accepted guidelines for dosing or formulation.
Alternatives to Melatonin for KidsMelatonin should never be used to replace good sleep hygiene. Before you try a supplement, there are many things you can do to help your child’s body produce Melatonin at the right time.
- Children need a consistent sleep/wake schedule and a regular bedtime routine. After 8:00 PM, cortisol starts to rise and it just gets harder to fall asleep, so aim to have your kiddos in bed before then.
- Expose your child to indirect sunlight during daytime hours. Light exposure in the morning facilitates a consistent sleep/wake cycle.
- Remove electronics (specifically, ones with blue light or red LED lights) from the bedroom. These lights suppress the body’s natural production of Melatonin. This means clocks, cell phones, tablets, and definitely TVs! If you can’t get the items out of the bedroom, cover the light with black electrical tape or black sticky dots.
- If your child (or you) needs a night light in the bedroom, use a red, orange, or amber light.
- Set the stage for night sleep by turning off the overhead lights after dinner. Instead, get a few Himalayan salt lamps and turn those on. You’ll be surprised at how sleepy you and your kids get when the bright lights are off.
- If you just can’t create that dark, cave-like sleeping environment for your child, consider the SlumberPod, a portable privacy pod that gives a baby or child their own dark and private sleep space. SlumberPod is a great option for apartment living, hotel rooms, or for sleeping at Grandma’s house.
The Bottom Line
Before you decide to give Melatonin supplements to your little ones, set the stage for good sleep. Create the ideal sleeping environment, incorporate all the elements of sleep hygiene, and resolve your child’s unhelpful sleep associations or behavioral sleep issues first.
After you’ve addressed all of that, you can probably cancel that appointment you made with the pediatrician to discuss Melatonin. Your child just might not need it!
Joan Becker Friedman
Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant & Registered Nurse
Pea Pod Sleep Consultants, LLC
Joan is a graduate of the Family Sleep Institute and a member of the International Association of Child Sleep Consultants. Joan was named as one of the "Best Sleep Consultants in the U.S" in 2019 and 2020 by Tuck.com. She specializes in working with babies, toddlers, and preschool children.
Whether parents are struggling with their child's night sleep or naps, Joan enjoys helping exhausted parents teach their kids to be great sleepers!
Joan offers in-person and virtual consultations, along with follow-up support. Learn more about her services and the families she has helped at www.peapodsleep.com.For a complimentary get-acquainted call, contact Joan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 414-379-0332.