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What Type Of Sleep Aid Is Good For Kids?

How To Find The Best Sleep Aids

Camille Freking, MS Pharmacology Profile Photo

Written by Camille Freking, MS Pharmacology on November 1, 2021

If your child has a hard time sleeping at night, you probably want to do anything you can to help them. As a parent, it is hard to see your child struggle in any way, and sleep is an absolutely essential part of your little one’s overall wellbeing.

Fortunately, there are some sleep aid products on the market that can help your child get to sleep, but not all of them may be quite as safe as they claim to be. Plus, sleep aids may not really even be necessary depending on what is causing your child’s difficulty sleeping. So what is childhood insomnia and how can you help your kiddo sleep better?

Childhood Sleeping Troubles: Symptoms and Causes

There are many different things that can interrupt your child’s sleeping habits or disrupt their sleep quality. From insomnia, to fears of the dark, to nightmares and sleepwalking, kids face plenty of obstacles when bedtime rolls around.

Fortunately, many of the issues that children have with their sleep are actually linked to behaviors during the day and habits at bedtime, and this means that you and your child can work together to help fix the problem.

Signs Your Child Isn’t Getting Enough Sleep

First thing’s first: How can you recognize whether or not your child is sleeping enough?

Signs that your child may not be getting enough sleep include:

  • Your child is often cranky, irritable, or very emotional
  • Your child has difficulty concentrating in school or at home, and teachers may or may not have expressed this to you
  • Your child easily falls asleep while in the car
  • Your child tends to space out a lot or has some trouble following conversations
  • Your child has trouble waking up in the morning or falling asleep at the end of the day
  • Your child becomes very drowsy or “crashes” part way through the day, much earlier than their bedtime

Childhood insomnia is one of the biggest sleep issues among kids, and you can recognize this if your kiddo shows the signs above or generally has a hard time staying asleep or falling asleep in the first place.

Causes of Childhood Sleep Troubles

Childhood insomnia can be caused by a multitude of factors, some of which you can help reduce.

Common causes of difficulty sleeping for kids include:

  • Eating too much sugar throughout the day, especially close to bedtime
  • Watching TV right before bedtime
  • Stress, caused by issues at school or at home, bullying, or problems with friends
  • Caffeine, which is in sodas and energy drinks, can keep your child awake if they consume it after lunchtime or too close to bedtime
  • Side effects of certain medications
  • Discomfort caused by allergies or cold symptoms

Plenty of these causes can be managed without the use of sleep aids, and all it takes are good communication and some lifestyle adjustments.

What To Do, and What Not To Do To Help Your Child Sleep

If your child is not dealing with allergies or a cold, you should not be giving them allergy medication or cold medicine just as a means of making them drowsy. Doing this means you are misusing the medicine as well as putting your child’s health at risk.

Additionally, hypnotic sleep aids containing zolpidem, including Ambien and the generic brand of Ambien, should absolutely not be given to your child. In fact, there are no prescription drugs that have been approved in the U.S. for helping children sleep.

Instead, opting for a clean, homeopathic remedy is a safer yet still effective way to help your child sleep better. Ingredients like chamomile and valerian root are safe alternatives and natural remedies for sleep aid.

Now, it is important to keep in mind that you should never try new medicines with your child without consulting your pediatrician. Your pediatrician can alert you to any potential drug interactions or other potential risks, and they can also offer advice when it comes to dosages and other aspects of the medicine.

That said, there are also a few things you can do right at home to help your child sleep better.

Home remedies for childhood insomnia include:

  • Making a bedtime ritual, which can include reading your child a story before bed or spending some time cuddling your little one. If your child is a little bit older, ask them what they want to do before bed or how many stories they would like to read. Reviewing all the items on the list with your child before starting the routine can help them set it into their brain.
  • Spending some time with your child before they go to sleep can help them relax when it is time for bed. Ask them some questions about their day, and allow them to ask you about yours, too.
  • Sticking to your routine when it comes to bedtime. Consistency is key to helping your child develop a sense of normalcy and regulation, and making sure they go to bed around the same time every night and wake up around the same time every morning can regulate their circadian rhythm.
  • Keeping your little one away from electronics for an hour or so before bedtime. This is important because the blue light from electronic screens can disrupt your kiddo’s circadian rhythm, thus wreaking havoc on their sleep. The screen lights can also interfere with your child’s production of melatonin and serotonin, which are also important for regulating sleep and waking.
  • Cleaning up distractions in the bedroom before putting your child to bed can keep their mind from wandering and fixating on something around the room, like their favorite toy. Bedtime should be all about going to sleep, and if there are toys and games scattered all around the room, it will be easier for your child to want to be active.

Implementing some of these strategies into your household environment may help improve your child’s sleeping habits and sleep quality. If your child still has a very hard time getting to sleep, or staying asleep, it is a good idea to speak to your pediatrician and get advice about some next steps.

Your pediatrician is also a fantastic resource for you and your child, and they may be able to steer you in the right direction. Your pediatrician may also be able to recommend you to a sleep specialist, who will be able to dig a little deeper into what is causing your little one’s sleeping problems. They will work with you to develop helpful strategies you can use at home, and will also be able to get to the root of the problem.

The Bottom Line

Though childhood insomnia is the most common sleeping problem among children, it does not have to be permanent.

Childhood insomnia can be brought on by plenty of different things, including stress, too much sugar during the day, caffeine, bad dreams, sleepwalking, or even discomfort caused by allergy or cold symptoms. The first step towards helping your child sleep is to identify what may be causing their problem to begin with.

If you are having trouble figuring out what the problem is, your pediatrician may be a great resource, and they can refer you to a sleep specialist if necessary.

Making some lifestyle changes, like settling on a concrete bedtime routine, can help your child get to sleep more easily by regulating their circadian rhythm.