So, I have been asked about melatonin for babies and children by quite a few of my followers and clients and thought it would be a good idea to address this topic here on my blog!
“Will giving melatonin supplements help my baby to sleep better through the night”?
My short answer? No, no it will not. It may help them with falling asleep but they will still wake. They will then need their usual settling method to get them back to sleep. Melatonin supplements are not a magic cure. Though they are considered perfectly safe and healthy by many naturopaths and other health practitioners, they aren’t always necessary and shouldn’t be you “go to” solution for sleep difficulties.
Now I am all for homeopathic/ naturalist medicines. But research has proven that though it can have a positive impact on some, the likelihood that melatonin supplements will be the answer to your baby sleep prayers, is pretty slim.
What is Melatonin exactly?
Without going into too much detail, Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in our bodies. This in conjunction with cortisol, regulates our “body clock”. Melatonin is the hormone that tells the body its time to relax and wind down. Cortisol on the other hand is a steroid hormone that gets us up and active.
So, how is Melatonin produced for babies and children?
In the dark, simple. The brain’s pineal gland secretes this hormone as a response to darkness. Our bodies naturally produce melatonin when the sun goes down, the melatonin then slowly begins tapering off from around midnight, until it is all gone by sun-up. As explained by Dr Luis F Buenaver, an assistant professor of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, “the human body produces melatonin on its own, and levels increase as bedtime approaches”.
Does artificial light affect Melatonin production?
Yep, 100%. It’s really good to give your children (and yourself) some time to relax in low lighting in the lead up to bedtime. Keep them off tablets/ phones and away from the telly. Blue screen/ blue light can really inhibit the body’s ability to get the production of melatonin kickstarted and therefore can have a really negative impact on the central nervous system and body clock.
I read somewhere that Newborns don’t produce their own Melatonin?
Correct! Newborns usually don’t produce and regulate their melatonin effectively until 6-12 weeks of age. But this doesn’t mean you can’t help them get into a healthy sleep rhythm. A good routine is great, but also don’t forget to soak up those sleepy newborns snuggle days.
So why don’t you recommend melatonin for babies?
Unless specifically recommended by a health practitioner I strongly suggest avoiding doing so According to Dr. Buenaver, “most people’s bodies produce enough melatonin for sleep on their own”. You do not want to impede on your baby’s natural ability to produce a hormone which occurs naturally. There is some research to suggest that while it is highly unlikely that a person will become “dependent” on melatonin, there are other side effects that may occur. For a list of side effects see here.
Well what is the magical cure to my baby’s sleep problems?
If I had the magical cure, I’d be rich! Sadly, there isn’t one. It really does take persistence and hard work. But it is absolutely achievable if you are committed and ready to help guide your baby toward healthy sleep habits and a love of sleep.
If you would like some assistance in the sleep department head to my services page for more information and I would be more than happy to help guide you through it!
It is really important as parents, to make informed and well researched decisions in relation to our children and their health. If melatonin is something that you are really considering please ensure you speak to a child health specialist first