Parenting comes with many decisions. Some are easy, but others are really tough. No one can definitively tell you how to tackle problems that you might face with your child. Sometimes conflicting advice and opinions can be overwhelming and the best we can do as parents is to find trusted sources and then make informed choices.
One common problem that many parents face at some point is insomnia. But how much sleep is enough when it comes to our precious little bundles? In 2016 the American Academy of Sleep Medicine released new guidelines for sleep requirements in children. Endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics this framework is based on the review of 864 scientific articles. The optimum amounts of sleep that children need are as follows:
- 4-6 months: 12-16 hours (including daytime naps)
- 1-2 years: 11-14 hours (including daytime naps)
- 3-5 years: 10-13 hours (including daytime naps)
- 6-12 years: 9-12 hours
- 13-18 years: 8-10 hours
Why isn’t my child sleeping? If you chat with other parents you will quickly realize that you are not alone with your child’s sleep issues. About 20-30% of all young children have trouble sleeping on a regular basis. Sleep deprivation means grumpy and irritable children who will struggle to learn at school but it can also cause other problems with health, growth and immunity to sickness.
Insomnia. The word brings to mind restless nights spent worrying and looking at the clock. However your child might have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep due to a whole range of different reasons such as anxiety, restless leg symptoms, nightmares, bedwetting, lighting, early bedtime or poor bedtime routines.
What Affect does melatonin have on sleep?
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland located in the brain. It is released in the evening, and production is suppressed in the morning and during the day in the presence of light. This hormone naturally helps control the sleep and wake cycles, including increasing sleep readiness and setting circadian rhythm control. In the US and Canada, melatonin is an over-the-counter drug (in its synthetic form) but in some countries including many EU countries and others such as New Zealand, Australia and South Africa it is only available with a prescription. It is usually used to treat insomnia related to jet lag, shift work, and delayed sleep onset. In recent years, it has been increasingly used for the management of sleep disturbances in children. Melatonin in the form of medication is usually prescribed for children that are born that have issues with ADHD, autism and fragile X Syndrome (FXS), who can be more prone to serious cases of insomnia and other sleep problems.
Does My Child need synthetic melatonin?
As parents we need to ask ourselves if melatonin supplements are the only way to get our children to sleep. It’s hard to imagine that a product that some manufacturers sell in gummy form for children could be a problem. However, melatonin, while natural may not always be safe, and here are the reasons why:
- Dosages are not regulated. Many brands of melatonin on the shelf have much higher dosages than recommended by scientific studies. The recommended dose is 0.3-1mg but many brands have up to 20 times that amount. This can wreak havoc on your body and amongst other things can lead to sleepiness the next day.
- During adolescence too much of the hormone might interfere with the development and growth of your child.
- Children who have recently been toilet trained may start wetting their beds again, start sleepwalking and have nightmares.
- Melatonin can lead to irritability in children and cause frequent tantrums.
What are the alternatives to Synthetic Melatonin?
Our first step should be working towards healthy sleep practices such as:
- A calm and consistent bedtime routine.
- While it’s highly unlikely that parents are brewing their poor sleepers a pot of coffee at bedtime abstinence from caffeine must be mentioned, remember chocolate and mocha flavored ice-creams and desserts too.
- Certain foods have been shown to encourage the production of Tryptophan which is needed to make melatonin in the body. Good sources include cherries, turkey and bananas.
- Avoid electronic gadgets for at least an hour before bedtime.
- A warm bath relaxes muscles and causes body temperature to drop rapidly once you are out. This is a good aid to make you feel sleepy.
- A drop of lavender oil on your child’s pillow or favorite cuddly toy has been shown to aid sleep.
- Keeping bed and wake times as regular as possible.
- Read a book with dim lighting.
- Examine the lights in your home and particularly in the bathroom and bedroom. Blue light sources such as led lights, electronics and most night lights inhibit the production of melatonin. On the other hand red light sources do not interfere with this process. If your child is afraid of the dark, look for a night light like the one found on Tick Tock Turtle, an alarm clock and night light that helps with sleep training.
For more information about the Tick Tock Turtle alarm clock, visit our homepage