Activities to Promote Melatonin Production in Small Children
Most parents have felt like they'd do anything if their children would just go to sleep. Melatonin is a hormone that a child's body produces in response to her circadian clock, to let her know it's time to sleep. If she's low in the hormone, she might have difficulty sleeping. Increasing the production of it can help induce sleepiness and get you all back to bed in no time.
Melatonin supplements are available over the counter in many drugstores and are effective for helping induce sleep 5. The University of Maryland Medical Center urges parents to talk to a pediatrician before giving a young child melatonin supplements 4. Melatonin is sometimes used as a sleep aid for kids with ADHD, autism, cerebral palsy or mental retardation. Taking it by mouth is an effective way to regulate a child's sleep-wake cycle, but it's vital to follow dosing instructions exactly because too much can cause seizures in small children.
Dim the Lights
Melatonin levels naturally go up in the evening when it gets dark and bedtime approaches. Unless your child is in a dim environment, her melatonin production won't increase, according to the National Sleep Foundation 5. If you have every light on in the house, her body won't realize it's getting close to time to hit the sack. If your little one is wired, but you want her to go to sleep, turn off some of the lights in the house and dim those in the rooms she spends time in before bed, including her bedroom and the bathroom, to help her brain begin the transition to sleep.
Have a Snack
A bedtime snack might be just what your little one needs to drift off to sleep. However, not just any snack will do. Cherries are one of the only foods that naturally contain melatonin, so offer your child a few deseeded cherries or a glass of cherry juice as bedtime gets closer. Foods that contain tryptophan stimulate melatonin production as well. Turkey, warm milk and bananas are good choices. Calcium helps the brain use tryptophan to produce melatonin, so yogurt and cheese are other sleep-inducing snacks 5.
Meditation is a practice that can induce melatonin production. However, small children probably aren't the best candidates for this method. You can, however, create a set amount of quiet time before bed. Turn off the cartoons or the games on your tablet and have your little one read in her bed or snuggle under a blanket with you while you read to her. Dim the lights a bit and make sure older siblings aren't banging around the house making noise that will prevent sleep. As her body winds down, her production of melatonin will rise and she'll start feeling sleepy.
- Empowering Parents: “Go to Bed NOW!” Winning the Bedtime Battle with Young Kids and Teens
- Forbes: 5 Surprising Foods That Help You Sleep
- Colorado State University: The Pineal Gland and Melatonin
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Melatonin
- National Sleep Foundation: Melatonin and Sleep
- AskDrSears.com: Foods That Help You Sleep
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