As many of us know, creating a healthy sleep schedule seems like a battle at times with children. Issues such as frequent waking or a consistently tired child may require medical attention, but often parents just need to keep working on healthy sleep habits.
Parents often ask my opinion on different sleep aids and whether any specific product or medicine may help their children get back into a consistent sleep schedule. But I'm here to tell you that, in most cases, sleep aids are not the answer.
I rarely recommend sleep aids because they are not scientifically proven to work or be safe for children. There are, however, a few cases in which I might suggest a common sleep aid, melatonin, for children. For example, there have been studies to show the benefit of using this specific sleep aid for children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or autism.
Yet I tend to stay on the safe side, given that melatonin is not FDA-approved and there is no recommended dosage for children. In addition, even though these pills are considered "natural" because melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in our bodies, natural does not always mean safe. Other pediatricians may suggest natural sleeping aids such as lavender, sweet orange, chamomile, and marjoram — but again, these are not FDA-approved, nor is their effectiveness rooted in empirical data.
Rather, I always recommend first that parents work with their children to develop healthy sleep habits. Here are a few tips that can help your kids fall asleep and stay asleep longer:
Though these healthy sleep habits may vary from child to child, they can certainly help children fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up feeling rested. If you're child still has trouble sleeping, or is diagnosed with ADHD, autism, or any other neurodevelopmental disorder, it is always recommended that you check with your pediatrician on the use of sleep aids or any other tactics that might help. In some cases, a referral to a pediatric sleep specialist might be needed.