As parents, we all want our children to get a good night's sleep. However, it's important to be aware of the potential risks involved in using sleep aids like melatonin to help your child fall asleep faster.
WHY MELATONIN ISN’T THE ANSWER
Despite being widely used to help adults sleep, there is little evidence to support the use of melatonin for children. In fact, long-term use of melatonin has been associated with negative side effects such as headaches, dizziness, and daytime sleepiness, according to a warning issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Additionally, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that melatonin may interfere with children's hormonal development. The study found that children who took melatonin supplements had lower levels of a hormone called LH, which is essential for sexual development.
THE ULTIMATE ALTERNATIVE YOUR KIDS WILL LOVE
So what can you do instead to help your child sleep better? The ultimate solution is to use a weighted blanket, which can promote relaxation and reduce anxiety.
Weighted blankets have been used for years with special-needs children (and adults), and research has shown that they can have self-soothing effects, such as increased serotonin and decreased cortisol levels.
Our Baloo weighted blanket is a great option for children, made with fine, chemical-free cotton and lab-tested lead-free glass microbeads. It's also the only quilted weighted blanket on the market made with 100% cotton throughout, with no polyester linings or filling. Plus, the materials used in the making of Baloo's weighted blankets and linen bedding are Oeko-Tex certified to be free of harmful chemicals.
HOW WEIGHTED BLANKETS WORK
Like being cuddled, the gentle hugging sensation of a weighted blanket mimics deep pressure touch. Children can get that same feeling of safety and comfort without climbing into your bed in the middle of the night. Research has shown that weighted blankets:
- Decrease the release of cortisol, for feelings of less stress and more calm.
- Increase serotonin production, the happy hormone.
- Increase the release of the body's own melatonin naturally, to lull them into deeper, higher-quality sleep faster.
Using a weighted blanket can create a sleep-conducive environment for your child, providing a comfortable and calming sensation that can promote relaxation and reduce anxiety without medication or supplements, and it's effects can be felt almost instantly!
GREAT SLEEP IS CRITICAL TO YOUR KIDS HEALTH (AND YOUR MENTAL HEALTH)
Good, restful sleep is a crucial part of our children's overall wellbeing. Sleep difficulties are not new, but we know from talking to our customers just how challenging and stressful the world has become for adults and kids alike. The CDC reports that up to 35% of kids are not getting enough sleep, and parents may not even know!
Sleep is essential for growth, immunity, learning, and memory, and is important for helping a child heal and recover. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, healthy sleep means a good quantity and quality of sleep, with regular sleep routines. A child who does not get enough healthy sleep may experience difficulties with concentration, memory, regulating their emotions, organizing tasks, and creative thinking. These children may be easily distracted, irritable, disruptive, or generally hyperactive and restless. A lack of healthy sleep has also been linked to mental health problems, poor growth, excessive weight gain, and reduced school performance. The impact can be profound and long-lasting.
Melatonin may seem like a quick fix for your child's sleep problems, but it's important to be aware of its potential risks, particularly the risk of dizziness. Instead, consider using a weighted blanket like the Baloo to create a safe and neutral sleep-conducive environment for your child. By doing so, you can help improve your child's sleep quality and overall wellbeing, without the potential risks associated with melatonin.
Nancy Grojean is a former Family Life Educator at Family Service Association, Life Coach, grandmother, and mother of three lovely daughters.
Children's Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service: Healthy sleep in children
Johns Hopkins: The Importance of Sleep for Kids
National Library of Medicine: Could long-term administration of melatonin to prepubertal children affect timing of puberty? A clinician’s perspective
2007 American Occupational Therapy Association’s Annual Conference Presentation