Sleep can become a distant dream for new parents. If your child has trouble sleeping at night it will also not let you get a good night’s rest. Unfortunately for many children, finding creative ways to get them to sleep can be difficult. There are a variety of solutions that parents can utilize, both medical and natural, that can help get their kids a full night’s rest each night. One of these solutions is through the use of melatonin, which comes in both natural supplement form and prescribed form.
Melatonin has been touted to be a miracle sleep cure in babies with sleeping disorders. But the question remains, is it even safe for your kid? It is alright for an adult to take pills for good night’s sleep. But can you really see yourself giving your little one a pill to get him or her to sleep? No matter how “natural” the pill is, it still remains a debatable topic. Lets have a holistic look at melatonin, its advantages and disadvantages. Then you can be the judge whether you want to give it to your kids.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone which is naturally produced by the pineal gland in your child’s brain. It is a chronobiotic agent meaning that it helps regulate your kid’s body clock. It is also hypnotic agent, meaning that at a higher dose it may induce sleep.
How does melatonin work?
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that our bodies make. Healthy adults and children get a surge of melatonin about 30 minutes before they get sleepy. This melatonin surge seems to be triggered by a reduction of light. This is why we get sleepy when it gets dark.
What causes sleeplessness in my baby?
When your baby’s brain doesn’t release adequate amounts or any amount of melatonin at the right time he or she will have trouble sleeping. If your toddler has been missing naps, frequently falling ill, or somehow grow out of their sleep pattern, you are looking at potential trouble!
Is Melatonin Safe for my Baby?
The jury is still out on this. Plenty of parents accept giving melatonin to their kids to help them get back into their circadian rhythm. There is good scientific evidence melatonin can shorten the time to fall asleep in children with insomnia. It can also potentially help kids with ADHD, autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. If you take a look at the various sources available on the internet you are likely to get several conflicting views on the topic. Some research claims that it is perfectly safe to be administered to children to help them sleep better. There are others that strongly discourage parents from its use. They even claim that melatonin can be possibly unsafe for your baby, no matter how natural it is. Probably the closest to the reality of melatonin for kids can be summed up by the following advice found on livestrong.com. It says, “Although the use of low doses of melatonin to help children sleep seems to be safe and effective, more research is needed to answer lingering questions.”
Advantages of giving melatonin to your kid:
The verdict is still pretty divided on whether melatonin is safe for kids. But it does have certain advantages. These include:
- It helps your kid fight off the ill effects of sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can lead to behavioral, attention and emotional problems in your kid.
- It can help kids diagnosed with ADHD, autism, and other neurodevelopmental disorders get the minimum required amount of sleep.
- Melatonin helps your child focus on school work, and other activities because they are well rested and fresh.
- Use of melatonin in kids with chronic sleep onset insomnia results in less difficulty with falling asleep, earlier time of sleep onset, and more sleep at night.
- Some research has suggested that children with eczema may benefit from controlled dosage of melatonin
What are the Side Effects of Melatonin in Kids?
Researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia have warned doctors and parents not to provide melatonin to kids for sleep problems. They have cautioned that use of the supplement in kids may result in serious side effects.
Side effects of melatonin may include:
- There’s extensive evidence from animal and human studies that the supplement causes changes in physiological systems. These include the reproductive, cardiovascular, immune and metabolic systems.
- Side effects may also include dizziness, headaches and daytime sleepiness, with higher doses of melatonin.
- It can also result in diarrhea, nausea, and overall drowsiness
- Excessive use of melatonin can also lead to cases of bed wetting in your child
What is the Recommended Dosage of Melatonin for Kids?,
There is no universal dosage of melatonin. The dosage will depend on the age of your kid. Your pediatrician will evaluate your baby’s specific case and advise you the recommended dosage accordingly.
A younger kid needs less melatonin that an older kid. The amount of melatonin may vary from 0.5 mg to 6 mg, but not more than that. The most common preparation might be a 2mg preparation. This is how much melatonin should be produced naturally by your baby’s body.
Points to remember:
If you have decided on providing melatonin supplement to your kid then you must keep the following points in mind.
- It must be given 30-60 minutes prior to bed time
- Initially you might want to try different timings to see which time suits your kid the best
- Discuss the outcome with your pediatrician
- Dim the lights in your child’s bedroom to help the melatonin take effect faster
Alternatives to Melatonin
If you don’t wish to use supplements for your kid, consider using these simple tips to help him or her sleep naturally:
- Find a bedtime routine that both you and your kids enjoy.
- Never let them use screens such as a PC, I-Pads, Mobiles, TV at bedtime. Make sure they do not have access to electronic devices past a certain time.
- Dim your house light at least 40 minutes prior to sleeping.
- During these 40 minutes don’t ask your kids to perform any activities.
- Make sure there is enough natural light entering the kid’s room in the morning.
- Make sure they do not overdo the naps.
Help your baby sleep better
Sleep is a skill that parents need to inculcate in their kids. It is important to teach them healthy sleep routines.
- Make sure your kids have regular wake up and sleeping time so that the melatonin surge is synchronized.
- Immediately address illness, anxiety, nutrition and other problems that might be preventing the kid from falling asleep.
- Explain to them that sleeping well would give them energy, attention and cheeriness throughout the day.
Before considering melatonin, have your pediatrician conduct a thorough evaluation for the potential causes. They can tell you if it’s safe for your particular child, and if so what dose to give them.