Surely many families are going through the difficulty of coping with problems with children's children's sleep. Desperate, they consider giving them melatonin, a hormone originally produced by the body that regulates the day-night cycle and that can also be administered as a medicine, but whose use without medical supervision can alter this process. Do you really want to know how melatonin affects children's sleep, what is its function and in what cases can it be administered?
One of the sleep disorders that affects infants and young children the most is insomnia. Approximately 80% of these cases are due to environmental factors and poor sleep habits.
He baby sleep it has an evolutionary process. After 4 months, the brain begins to mature and sleep patterns change. The circadian rhythm begins to function and sleep tends to become structured.
Circadian rhythms are important in determining sleep patterns. It is the clock of our body and is in charge of controlling the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes us relax and induce sleep, and cortisol, the hormone that makes us more active in the morning. Light is the main signal that influences circadian rhythms, activating or deactivating genes that control the internal clocks of our body.
Themelatonin ecretion it is generally low during the day and high at night, causing the body's clock to prepare for sleep. High cortisol levels, on the other hand, can lead to sleep deprivation and will cause your child to sleep poorly and possibly wake up very early in the morning.
When a child is given melatonin (synthetic or exogenous), his circadian rhythm changes, but that does not mean that he will sleep better. Surely you will fall asleep faster, but once the effect of the melatonin wears off, you will wake up and as your problem comes from the root, that you cannot sleep, the problem will continue to be there.
As we have said above, melatonin should always be supervised by the pediatriciana, and is that not all children can take this substance. Its use is not recommended in children under six months, nor in children with autoimmune diseases, hematological tumors, poorly controlled asthma, diabetes or epilepsy.
From that age on, it has been shown to be effective as a regulator of the wake / sleep rhythm, that is, being awake and sleeping. As for the recommended amount, it is between 1 to 3 mg a day and its treatment should not exceed 4 weeks in infants since its side effects in the medium and long term are still unknown. In the case of older children, the time could be extended, but always under the guidelines dictated by the doctor.
Considering all these factors, the solution to the childhood sleep problem is not to administer melatonin but to work on good healthy sleep habits. Here are some tips!
- One hour before putting your child to bed, create a calm environment at home lowering the lights. Dimming the light allows the melatonin to rise in its natural pattern.
- At least 30 minutes before going to sleep, turn off the use of screens, mobiles or tablets. The use of artificial light from these screens can influence the production of melatonin, altering its natural production.
- have watch out for long naps pm. Try to respect the waking times according to the age of your child, so that he arrives sleepy, but not over tired to bed.
- Put them to bed later, trying to get them to sleep longer will make the problem worse. Counterintuitively, they need to go to bed earlier and have the right amount of naps throughout the day in order to get more sleep at night.
- Keep a stable place to sleep, this means avoiding bringing it to your bed.
- When you need artificial lighting at night, use a very dim light and that it does not illuminate the whole room.
- Create a good sleep routine before going to sleep, which includes reducing sound and light stimuli to a minimum. Stories can be included for the child to associate that it is time to go to bed.
- Try fall asleep in your crib / bed, without sleep props.
- He children's bedroom should be cozy and healthy, free of electronic gadgets.
- And avoid consuming all stimulating foods at night.
** Recommendations drawn from the books of children's sleep experts: Tracy Hogg, Elisabeth Pantley, Kim West, National Sleep Foundation, and more. And from the Spanish Association of Pediatrics.
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