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Melatonin: How & Why Do We Get Sleepy?

Melatonin is a naturally produced hormone that helps initiate & regulate sleep. In the evening our eyes sense the fading light & tell our brains to secrete this ‘sleepiness’ hormone. The next day, the morning light lets us know it's time to stop producing it so we can be wakeful & active. This day/night pattern is our “circadian rhythm” & whilst active, isn't mature until 3 months old (& why babies may confuse their day/nights).

Sleep is often challenging for children & parents alike. Behavioural strategies should be the first option when dealing with sleep difficulties. This is because so much of how we get to & stay asleep is reliant on ‘learned’ behavioural & social cues. If there are still issues (& medical concerns have been ruled out) melatonin may be suggested.

Melatonin doesn't make you sleep, but instead helps achieve a state of quiet wakefulness that promotes sleep. In children, it’s used to treat significant sleep disturbances associated with going to or staying asleep. Whilst a very safe drug, in Australia melatonin requires a prescription.

Frequent waking is biologically normal for young infants & many children don’t sleep through the night until their toddler years. Parents expect to be sleep deprived, but for the last three months, our (now) 10 month old was waking every 20-40 minutes throughout the night 😳 Sleep has always been a challenge for our bub. As a 3rd generation sufferer of GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) it means that, for him, lying down is associated with discomfort & pain.

It was also a HUGE challenge for us - exacerbating mental health issues & making it almost impossible to function. Thankfully our village stepped up & rescued us. We tried addressing ALL other possible sleep-related factors (allergies, overtired, undertired, iron, tongue-ties etc). For us, the solution has been melatonin. Our little one is now only waking 2-3 times a night, something I didn't imagine possible. Talk to your healthcare professional to find out more & see whether you think it might be a good fit for you.

References: Andersen et al 2008; Rivkees 2003; Sanchez-Barcelo et al 2011

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