Melatonin has become a hot topic when it comes to child sleep. As of now, you may have heard of a friend that uses melatonin for her child, or perhaps you use it yourself. But what is melatonin, and when is an appropriate time to use it?
Melatonin itself is a hormone naturally produced by the body. It’s the “sleepy” hormone produced by the pineal gland. Melatonin rises leading up to bedtime and starts to decrease in the morning, helping your body to fall asleep at night and wake for the day. Melatonin is naturally produced when it gets darker at night, so dimming the lights in your home and shutting all curtains in the early evening can jumpstart the body’s production of this hormone. However, there are certain circumstances in which the body may need a little help at producing melatonin in order to regulate the sleep cycle.
When going across multiple time zones, getting a child to sleep at your destination within the first few days is challenging. Especially if you are traveling due East, your child may be wide awake when it’s time to sleep. If they are struggling to adapt to the new time zone, melatonin could be used to help them get sleepy at a more appropriate time.
For Medical Reasons
Specific medical diagnoses may require the use of melatonin. Some reasons may include ADHD, Autism, Restless Leg Syndrome, and Anxiety. If you suspect these issues are making it more difficult for your child to fall asleep, consult your pediatrician who may or may not suggest supplementing with melatonin.
Sometimes due to common childhood illnesses, children struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. Coughing, insomnia, or too long of a nap when ill are a few circumstances where melatonin can help. Once again, consult your pediatrician especially if your child is sick.
Daylights Savings and Back to School are two of the most common reasons that parents struggle to get their children’s schedules back on track. You can certainly prepare in advance by gradually adjusting your child’s schedule and pulling back bedtime earlier and earlier each day. But if that doesn’t work, and the night before you realize bedtime is still too late, you may consider using melatonin for a few days to reset their internal clock.
Although melatonin can be purchased over the counter, always consult your pediatrician before using it. Melatonin supplements are only advised for children ages three and up and are meant to be a temporary solution, not a daily supplement.