There are many reasons why adults and children simply aren’t getting good sleep these days. For some, it’s a busy schedule, stress, diet & activity, or simply a mind that won’t turn off. Many people turn to melatonin, an over-the-counter sleep aid to help them sleep better.
With all the information on the internet, it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. Dr. Tanya Altmann, mom and pediatrician, is here to share with you the facts and break some common misconceptions about what melatonin is and how it works.
Let’s start with the basics: melatonin is naturally produced in the body to help regulate our sleep cycle. When the sun sets, darkness signals the brain to produce melatonin, telling our body it’s time to sleep. When the sun comes up, the light then signals the brain to stop making melatonin, telling our body that it’s time to wake up.
Changes in routine, seasonal time changes, screen-time before bed, and other disruptions can interrupt melatonin production and throw us off cycle. Melatonin supplements can help overcome the disruptions and help reset your sleep-cycle. So, the next time your child’s bedtime routine is interrupted consider trying a low-dose, drug-free Natrol® Kids Melatonin.
Five Melatonin Myths & Facts
Melatonin is a hormone
Fact: Melatonin is known as the “sleep hormone,” and is responsible for regulating your sleep-wake cycle, regulating your circadian rhythm and telling your body when it’s time for sleep. It is naturally produced by the pineal gland in the brain that is then released into the blood to communicate with other parts of the body that it’s time to sleep. Darkness signals your brain to produce melatonin, which makes you feel drowsy and prepares your body for sleep by lowering your body temperature and slowing your heart rate.
Kids don’t have as much trouble sleeping as adults
Fact: It is estimated that up to 75 percent of school-aged children don’t get enough sleep. Problems with falling asleep are common in children, just like in adults. In fact, 50 percent of children in the United States aren’t getting enough sleep. Academic, behavioral, developmental and social difficulties, weight abnormalities, and other health problems are among the reasons associated with poor sleep. Sleep disorders in children may lead to daytime moodiness, irritability, lack of focus in class, sleepiness in school, inability to get up in time for school, and significant behavioral and learning problems, while more severe cases can even cause cardiovascular issues and metabolic effects.
Of course, sleep hygiene such as having a regular bedtime routine, plenty of exercise and turning off screens at least an hour before bedtime is important. But when more help is needed, pediatricians frequently recommend melatonin for children with occasional sleep problems. The use of melatonin results in less difficulty with falling asleep, faster sleep onset (the time it takes to actually fall asleep), and more sleep at night.
Melatonin is addictive or habit-forming
Fact: There is a misconception that the consumption of melatonin gradually reduces your body’s natural melatonin production, making you dependent on the supplement. In fact, taking melatonin supplements does not become a habit or a crutch needed to fall asleep. Studies demonstrate that there are no addictive properties associated with taking a melatonin supplement, unlike other over-the-counter and prescription sleep aids. Taking a melatonin supplement simply helps to regulate your body’s natural production of the hormone.
For most children, melatonin supplements are recommended for a short period of time, such as a few weeks, as that is all that is needed to get the body back on a normal sleep cycle and be able to produce its own melatonin.
Melatonin is unsafe for kids
Fact: Melatonin has been studied in children as young as three months and deemed safe when taken as needed. Natrol recommends melatonin supplementation for children four years of age or older, but some pediatricians will recommend it for younger children. Natrol® Kids Melatonin comes in a gentle 1 mg dose in two kid-friendly forms – Fast Dissolve and Gummies. Both forms have a childproof cap, are non-GMO, vegetarian and free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. We recommend taking the supplement as directed (1 mg) and consulting your health care professional if you think your child needs more.
Higher doses of melatonin will help you sleep better
Fact: Always start at the lowest dose possible and for children, that is 1 mg about 30 minutes before bedtime. For older children, your pediatrician may recommend adjusting up to 3 mg, depending on the results and age of your child. Many adults also have good sleep success with low doses but may increase up to 10 mg if needed. For more specific dosing instructions please consult your pediatrician.
Melatonin is a solution for occasional sleeplessness.
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