Sleep Aids for Children: Yay or Nay?
Even though many babies outgrow their sleep issues, some continue to struggle with sleep into their childhood. Unfortunately, sleep problems in babies do not end just because they hit a certain milestone.
On the other hand, some children only develop their sleep issues in childhood; some due to anxiety, some due to stress. Regardless of the causes, sleep problems are detrimental to children due to trouble focusing, poorer memory and lower energy in general. All these in combination are less than optimal for a child’s learning and development.
What is a Sleep Aid?
A sleep aid is exactly what it sounds like: something we use to help us sleep. It can include prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs and dietary supplements. However, sleep aid does not necessarily have to be ingested. It can also be in the form of soft toys, music, essential oil and so on.
How do Sleep Aids Work?
Sleep aids work by making us drowsy. This makes it easier for us to fall asleep and stay asleep, resulting in better rest overall.
As for non-ingestible forms of sleep aids, they calm and relax us, making it easier for us to drift off to sleep.
What are Some Side-Effects of Ingestible Sleep Aids?
The side effects will vary from person to person. However, some of the common ones include:
- Counter-interaction with other drugs
- Persisting drowsiness
- Difficulty in focusing
In addition, many people reported that they become dependent on sleep aids to fall asleep. In other words, they have to take drugs in order to fall asleep for the rest of their lives unless they choose to go cold turkey.
Considering how young children are, you don’t want them to spend the rest of their lives relying on these drugs to fall asleep. Firstly, because they still have many years ahead of them; and secondly, we don’t know the long-term effects of these chemicals on our bodies, especially over such a prolonged time.
What are Some Safe Alternatives to Help Children Cleep?
Creating a Conducive Environment for Sleep
Considering the potential side-effects, we believe that pills should only be saved for the last resort. Instead, there are several things one can do before we even think about drugs.
Perhaps, one of the simplest measure is to create a conducive sleep environment. Ensure that the room is as dark as possible as this promotes an optimal level of melatonin, the hormones responsible for making us sleepy. This includes minimising use of devices as well, since the light emitted from these devices can also disrupt the production of melatonin.
Whenever possible, minimise the noise in the room as it can prevent your child from falling asleep. If that is not possible, you may want to consider a white noise machine which can drown out household noise.
In recent years, childhood anxiety has been on the rise. This is unsurprising in our pressure-cooker society where children are drilled in academic concepts from a tender age. Unfortunately, childhood anxiety also has another side effect, insomnia.
Stress has been found to reduce sleep quality. As such, parents may want to consider reducing some of the pressure on their children or find ways to help them manage their stress.
One idea to try may be teaching your child meditation to help them to calm down and relax. Indeed, many meditation practitioners have reported improved sleep after they started meditating.
The benefit of the above strategies is that it does not involve your child taking anything into their little bodies. Really, anything has the potential to cause an allergic reaction and we just never know the end result of consuming anything.
Alternative Sleep Aids
Now we get to alternative forms of sleep aids. Some essential oils like lavender can have a calming effect and have been used to improve sleep. To use essential oil, you may like to add it to a diffuser or hang a sachet of dried lavender flowers to help your child sleep. However, the verdict is still out on whether exposure to essential oil has any detrimental effects on children, so do exercise care when using it.
Another alternative is the use of a soothing toy. Soft toys are particularly helpful as they are cuddly and comforting. Weighted and warmable ones like SnuggleTike™️ are especially calming as they mimics the reassuring feel of a mother’s hand. Soft toys also help children destress as they double up as a confidante that the child can confidently share their woes with.
The Final Words on Sleep Aids
Dealing with a child’s sleep issue can be both demanding and stressful for a parent. After all, your child’s sleep problem affects not just himself, but you as well. Thus when your child sleeps well, you rest well too. So, getting back to our original question of whether to use sleep aids, we would give a resounding "yay" to non-ingestible forms of sleep aids.
Ultimately, we believe that ingesting pills should always be saved as the last resort. Do give the alternative sleep aids above a go and see if they help your child. If none of them work, it is advisable to seek medical help before trying medication.