Is There Something Natural I Can Give My Child to Help Sleep Through the Night?

Your child needs sleep for healthy growth and development. But, it's common for children to awaken during the night and to have trouble returning to sleep, states the American Sleep Association. Children with sleep problems are more likely to suffer behavioral problems or moodiness. However, most cases of sleep problems during childhood can be effectively treated.

Causes

Several factors can cause your child's sleeping problems. For instance, young children may drink too many fluids during the day, which causes them to get up at night to go to the bathroom. Or, your child may suffer nightmares, nap for too long or be too wound up to go to sleep. In some cases, a sleep-onset association disorder may be to blame. According to the American Sleep Association, this occurs when your child becomes accustomed to getting attention or comforting before falling asleep.

Effects

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Sleep deprivation may cause your child to become irritable, aggressive or hyperactive, according to the University of Michigan Health System. She may also be unable to wake up easily in the morning. Your child may also fall asleep during class, which can interfere with her academic performance.

Seek Expert Help

An ideal scenario would be a child willing getting into bed, immediately snuggling down and falling instantly asleep without any cajoling or pleading from parents. The more realistic scenario, however, is that many children refuse to admit that they're ready for bed and many other children get out of bed several times before even starting to fall asleep. If this describes your situation, talk to your child's doctor about natural supplements that might help.

Amount

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Babies need the most amount of total sleep -- nighttime sleep and naps combined -- at about 16 hours, states the University of Michigan Health System. That duration trails off to about 13 hours by the time your child reaches 18 months old. Between ages 2 and 7, children should get about 10 to 13 hours of sleep and children ages 8 to 12 need about 9 1/2 to 11 hours of sleep.

Melatonin

To battle nighttime sleeping problems, some parents have started giving their children the natural supplement, melatonin. This hormone is produced in the brain's pineal gland and helps to control the body's sleep-wake cycle. Usually used to treat jet lag, melatonin has shown some promise in treating sleep problems.

Sleep-Inducing Bedtime Snacks

Some foods contain tryptophan, an amino acid that is a precursor to the hormones serotonin and melatonin, which play a role in sleep.

To help your child fall asleep, serve up a bedtime snack of complex carbohydrates -- such as whole-grain crackers -- and tryptophan-containing foods such as:

  • hummus
  • poultry
  • soy-based foods
  • cheese

Caution

While initial studies in children indicate that melatonin is a safe natural remedy for children's sleep problems, more research is needed and the long-term effects are unknown. Your child should also be officially diagnosed with a sleep problem before giving her anything to help her sleep.

Consult a doctor to have your child assessed.

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