Melatonin is a hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycles. Very often we use melatonin to help us sleep more soundly, and if children are having any sleep challenges, I am often asked if melatonin is a good idea to improve their sleep quality as well.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain. Its production responds to light and darkness, and is influenced by our body's internal clock (circadian rhythm).
Our bodies produce melatonin naturally. We start to release it in the evening as part of our natural circadian rhythm. This production increases during the night, which promotes restful sleep.
Babies and young children's sleep patterns are still evolving as they grow. Infants have irregular sleep patterns, while older children have a more established sleep-wake cycle. Understanding these age-related changes is crucial for developing healthy sleep habits and routines. Often, parents want to give their young children melatonin to help them sleep, when, in fact, the issue they are experiencing is more about the child's schedule and routine.
Tips to creating healthy sleep habits and routines for better sleep:
Consistent Bedtime Routine: Establishing a consistent bedtime routine helps signal to your child's body that it's time to wind down. This routine may include calming activities, such as reading a book or taking a warm bath.
Limiting Screen Time: Minimize exposure to iPads and videos, especially in the hour leading up to bedtime. The blue light emitted by electronic devices has been proven to interfere with melatonin production.
Creating a Sleep-Friendly Environment: Ensure that your child's bedroom is conducive to sleep – cool, dark, and quiet. Investing in blackout curtains can be especially helpful in minimizing light exposure. Using a white noise machine is helpful for drowning out household noises.
The BBC recently published an article on the rise of melatonin use in children.
Understanding melatonin and its role in children's sleep is crucial for encouraging healthy sleep habits and routines. By being mindful of factors that affect melatonin production, parents can play a key role in promoting restful sleep for their little ones.
Always consult with your healthcare provider for recommendations tailored to your child's specific needs. For more information or to schedule a free call regarding your child's sleep and behavior challenges, contact me at any time.
Sweet Dreams! 😴👶