More kids than ever before are using melatonin to sleep and experts are now cautioning against it.
With back to school in full swing, familiar routines start up again, and that includes reining in those late nights and getting the kids back on track with bedtimes.
At this time of year, conversations with clients and others naturally turn to their kids or grandkids and on more than one occasion, the topic of kids and sleep has come up. Setting a bedtime doesn't seem to be a problem. How their little ones (and not-so little ones) are just not sleeping is the bigger concern. And, of course, if they're not sleeping, neither are you.
For well over a decade, I've been coaching clients on how to achieve their health and weight goals through blood sugar stabilization and hormonal balance. There are six components to consider, one of which is sleep.
Truly, sleep is a key piece to overall health, and sadly, most people aren't getting enough. As my own kids were great sleepers, it never occurred to me that lack of sleep, in both hours and quality, was as pervasive as it is.
The Sleep Foundation posted an article earlier this month stating 50% of children struggle with sleep at some point during childhood, and that 20% to 30% of kids are diagnosed with sleep disorders.
In addition to nutrition, I spent almost 20 years in education, specializing in behaviour, working in the classroom with kids with special needs. Sleep was an issue for many of the kids I worked with. However, regardless the age or their scholastic ability, it sure was easy to tell who had stayed up late on a school night.
Because of the comments I heard and things I read, I decided to do a little investigating on my own. Sure, my kids are grown, but I work with families. There are friends and neighbours aswell and it's back to school time, so here we are.
So, I took a day and sent out messages to everyone I could think of with (younger) kids and teens and posted videos and polls on social media asking for feedback. I asked, “Do your kids have trouble sleeping?” and “Do you ever given them melatonin or anything similar for it?”
Only two out of all who responded said their kids slept well.
I happened to be at my chiropractor that day and I asked him the same questions with regards to the kids in his practice. His resounding, “Heck ya!” reinforced my thoughts on whether or not this topic warranted an article. Cleary it does.
We all know that sleep is important, but what does lack of sleep really do besides bring out your child's inner gremlin? Let's take a look.
Lack of sleep impacts physical health. Sleep Medicine Reviews reports children and adolescents with inadequate sleep are at a higher risk for obesity, as lack of sleep disrupts their metabolism and increases appetite, often for sweets and starches.
Mental health is also affected. According to the American Psychological Association, a lack of sleep causes increased feelings of stress and anxiety which contributes to sleep difficulties, continuing the cycle. Currently 25% of teens report feeling stressed out daily.
Learning is impacted. The National Institute of Health says a lack of sleep impacts academic performance as students are more likely to struggle with attending in class, memory, focus and learning.
Clearly our kids need to get some ZZZs. Almost all whose kids have difficulty sleeping reported they had used, or are currently melatonin. While melatonin is a hormone our brain needs for sleep, ingesting it has been shown to have some serious negative effects verses stimulating your body to make more on its own.
Because melatonin supplements can overwhelm the body's natural production and confuse the body's internal clock, kids who take it may experience drowsiness during the day. When used improperly, melatonin supplements can disrupt the natural sleep cycle, leading to disturbances.
Taking high doses of melatonin for extended periods of time may interfere with the body's natural hormone regulation, leading to potential hormonal imbalances.
The amount of melatonin kids produce naturally change as they grow older, and continued use can disrupt the body's natural development. As well, some kids may become dependent on melatonin supplements to initiate sleep, which can lead to difficulties of ever falling asleep without them.
If synthetic melatonin is part of your bedtime regimen, note that the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recently issued a health advisory with warnings about its use.
The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine also published a study that found “significant quality problems with melatonin supplements...having contaminants or failing label claim.”
Ultimately, the long-term effects of melatonin use, especially at higher doses, are not well understood.
I’m not sure about you, but I'm not too excited to give a child anything where the long-term outcomes are not well understood.
And yet, a child still needs to sleep. Nutritional bio-chemist, Dr. Shawn Talbott advocates a natural approach and has developed products that use things like turmeric, berries, lemon, vanilla, chamomile along with magnesium, vitamins B,B12, B6, D, D3, to help calm, relax and regulate moods, together with a type of corn grass to help your child's body make its own melatonin. He does keep them sugar-free, as well as free of artificial sweeteners.
Your child will feel calmer, relaxed and have an overall deeper sleep. Which means you will too.
For more information and to watch Talbott's video on kids' sleep aids, email me at [email protected].
To watch Tania's free training on blood sugar stabilization, click here.
The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute medical advice. All information and content are for general information purposes only. ou should consult a trained medical professional before taking any supplements.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.