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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

5 Popular Natural Sleep Aides for Children

Sometimes it is hard to get your child to go to sleep and stay asleep. You’ve tried some the gimmicks and gadgets for children but nothing has worked. There are sleep supplements for children. Here are the 5 popular choices:

1. Melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally in the body by the pineal gland in your brain. Melatonin helps to control your sleep-wake cycle i.e. it tells your body when to go to sleep and when it’s time to wake up. This supplement is popular for adults who work late at night or for those suffering from jet lag as it lessens the time it takes to fall asleep and also increases the length of sleep.

Studies have shown that melatonin can help children with insomnia to fall asleep. Dosage should not exceed 3mgs and it is not recommended to give to children under 10 years of age. Side effects include: daytime drowsiness, headaches, dizziness, stomach upset. According to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality it is safe for short-term use, usually three months or less. The pharmaceutical grade synthetic supplement is available at your local grocer, health food store or pharmacy. DO NOT purchase melatonin is its natural form derived from animal’s pineal glands due to the possibility it could be contaminated.

Talk to your pediatrician before giving melatonin to your child to rule out interaction with other medication or medical reasons such as breathing difficulties or ADHD.

2. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita). Chamomile is one of the oldest herbs used for a sleep aide. It is also very gentle on the body and that is why it is popular for children to use. The active ingredients are flavonoids; chrysin and apigenin that are believed to make one more relaxed and fall asleep more easily. It also has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

Many people use chamomile for an upset stomach. There are no known side effects with chamomile; however some people have an allergic reaction especially those with plant or pollen allergies. Most popular as a tea, chamomile is also available in pill form and also blended in a capsule with other sleep supplements like the ones listed below and also including hops and cat nip.

3. Valerian (Valeriana officinalis). Valerian is a plant belongs to the Valerianaceae family. It has been used for over a thousand years as a mild sedative and hypnotic (a preparation that brings on sleep). It is also a supplemental sleep aide for children to reduce the time they fall asleep and improve their quality of sleep. The parts of the plant that are used for medicinal purposes are the roots and rhizomes (horizontal underground stems), which are typically yellowish-brown in color. The roots and rhizomes are harvested in the autumn of the plant's second year. They can be freeze-dried and used to prepare tablets or capsules containing the ground herb. Juice can be pressed from the fresh root, or the root may be mixed with alcohol to become a fluid extract or tincture of valerian.

When valerian is used to relieve tension or induce sleep, it is frequently combined with either passion flower ( Passiflora incarnata ), lemon balm ( Melissa officinalis ) or skullcap ( Scutellaria laterifolia ). Because valerian tea has a somewhat bitter taste, flavorings are often added, including peppermint or fruit flavor, to make a more pleasant-tasting drink. Adults may use the dosages.

• 2–3 g dried root in tea, up to several times daily
• 1/4–1/2 tsp (1–3 mL) valerian tincture, up to several times daily
• 1/4 tsp (1–2 mL) fluid extract
• 150–300 mg valerian extract, standardized to contain0.8% valerenic acid

To relieve insomnia, one of the above dosages may be taken 30–45 min before bedtime. It may take one to two weeks of regular use before the herbal preparation takes effect.

When giving valerian to children, recommended adult dosages should be adjusted in proportion to the child's weight. Most dosages of herbal products are calculated for an adult weighing 150 lb (70 kg). A child weighing 75 lb (35 kg) should therefore receive 1/2 the adult dose. Not recommended for children under the age of three.
Side effects include nausea, headaches, dizziness, vivid dreams, weakened heartbeat and even paralysis.

4. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis). Lemon balm is a mint plant that has been used in Europe and has been approved in Germany as a supplement to treat insomnia in conjunction with a nervous stomach as it protects the gastrointestinal tract against ulcers. It's gentle enough for very small children and is a favorite remedy for colic. Taken as a tea it is very tasty, but according to a German study children benefit greatly if valerian is combined with lemon balm in tablets. Dosage: 160mg of valerian root dry extract and 80mg of lemon balm leaf dry extract. Not known to have any toxicity or side effects.

5. Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata). This herb was used by the Aztecs to help relax the mind and induce sleep. Its active ingredient harmine and related compounds help inhibit the breakdown of serotonin. As a neurotransmitter, serotonin helps to relay messages from one area of the brain to another. Because of the widespread distribution of its cells, it is believed to influence a variety of psychological and other body functions including sleep.

Passion flower also contains chrysin, the same flavonoid found in chamomile. It is an especially helpful sleep aid for sleep disorders caused by chronic pain, muscle conditions and anxiety. It can be taken as a tea, tincture or as capsules and safe for children. However, because the most common side effect of passion flower is drowsiness, don’t give it to them unless you plan to have your child sleep for while.

Now that you know these 5 natural sleep aids for children, always consult your pediatrician first if you are thinking of using any of them for your child. He should evaluate your child’s medical history and establish the correct dosage for each supplement.

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