Melatonin Gummies for Your Child? NO!!! Yoga and Moonbathing Please
November 29, 2020
I’ve been asked this question many times in clinic. I have relented at times and given parents the correct doses and timing for melatonin. I think I know more about melatonin than most pediatricians just because I’ve read two articles on it, and I used to work in a sleep research group. Being an endocrine research fellow in a sleep research group gave me more confidence to give advice on sleep.
Here are two articles I recommend you read on melatonin before you even consider giving it to your child. One, is from HealthyChildren.org and the American Academy of Pediatrics https://healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/sleep/Pages/Melatonin-and-Childrens-Sleep.aspx and one is from Dr. Craig Canapari, my old friend from residency and a Nationally Recognized Pediatric Sleep Expert and Pediatric Pulmonologist https://drcraigcanapari.com/should-my-child-take-melatonin-a-guide-for-parents/. Here is the scientist that I worked with on sleep research, he is currently the chief medical officer at the FDA Office Division of Metabolism and Endocrine Products https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Giovanni_Cizza2 . That’s actually a really important position.
I made a committment years ago to always treat my patients like I would my children. Unless there are extenuating circumstances with profound other medical problems – like ADHD and Autism and only then if the psychiatrist is also looking to work on sleep through medication, I will now change my practice. When parents ask me in clinic, can I give this gummy vitamin because my kid does not eat vegetables – I tell them NO. Gummy vitamins do not replace a plant-rich diet. I now spend the time (even though enough time is not allotted to do true primary preventative care) go over diet and vegetables and a diverse diet. I’m even in the process of finishing a free coobook that I’m going to give my patients! If you have any recipes you want included, let me know! Now when parents ask me, “Dr. Plastic Picker can I give my darling little Joey melatonin for sleep?” I am going to answer NO!
Life cannot be reduced to a gummy anything. There were even Apple Cider Vinegar gummies at Costco the other day! Seriously???!!! It is absolutely scary and mind boggling. I would never give my otherwise normal children melatonin for sleep. The reason why, is that it is not that effective and a waste of money. Plus a drug is a drug. I do not want to start children in the habit of thinking I can pop this gummy, and it is going to solve all of life’s problems. Parents have asked me if they can give their child benadryl to sleep, and I’ve said no. Now when they ask me about melantonin, I will be even more emphatic NO. Let’s talk about true wellness and get to the core issue. Even if melatonin works in the short term, it will prevent us from getting to the underlying issues that is disrupting your child’s sleep.
One of my instagram blogger friends is EatSleepBreathFI.com . She is a personal finance blogger (not an MD) and I love her blog, but more importantly I love her presence on the blogsphere and Instagram. https://eatsleepbreathefi.com/ One thing I love about her blog handle is her name which encompasses all that should be good in life, good food, good sleep and clean air. Isn’t that what we all want? Good sleep does not come from melatonin and certainly not from a gummy that it going to give your kids cavities anyway. Do you really want litte Johnny at 40 sitting with a marriage therapist and looking at his soon to be ex-wife and ask, “do you have a gummy for that?” Sometimes you have to do the hard work, and with your child’s sleep – this absolutely deserves your parenting. As your pediatrician I am telling you, that you are not doing yourself nor your child any favors by trying melatonin. I am not doing you any favors by giving you my tacit endorsement of a gummy to replace good parenting. It’s not unlike with those who used to split up vaccines, I never recommended it but I relented as it was exhauting to fight them. Now I fight, I sit there and will spend a good 30 minutes convincing you to do your vaccines on schedule. Previously by not giving vaccines the counseling time they deserved, I was causing harm. And when parents mention off-hand about melatonin and maybe they can try it, I will tell them NO. I will sit with them and do the hard-work on really being your child’s LIFE COACH. Did you know that LIFE COACH certification costs $2,500 and 60 hours of on-line training? Your pediatrician? It cost me over $200,000 to earn my MD at my fancy Ivy League Medical School. The equivalent tuition now is closer to $400,000. Eleven years of schooling and training, and I did an extra three years for fun (one of those years was in the sleep research group). With that, please listen to me about your child’s sleep.
I am really passionate about sleep at 512AM on a Sunday morning when it’s pitch dark outside, because your pediatrician finally figured out my sleep! Without drugs. Without melatonin. It took me about 1.5 years to figure it out. I’ll save you the time if you want to fix your child’s sleep faster. When your child’s sleep is disrupted, is means there life is disrupted. A deep good night of sleep indicates the day flowed well. A good night’s sleep means the rhythms of your life are healthy. Healthy sleep is one of the most important gifts you can give your child. Indeed poor sleep in adults has been linked to deposition of amyloid beta protein which is causative for Alzheimers. Can you imagine what poor sleep does to a developing and growing brain?
10 Thoughts To Replace the Irrational Thought of Paying $$$ to Companies for a Hormone that Your Child’s Body Makes Anyway. If you are thinking of paying $30 for Zarabess brand Melatonin, it is equivalent to $50 for a packet of “Waiakea Hawaiian Volcanic Water, Naturally Alkaline, 100% Upcycled Bottle.” It’s water, and someone paid $50 for it. It’s Melatonin, and your child’s body makes it for free.
- Model Good Sleep Behavior: As with most things, if your child’s sleep rhythms are off than likely your sleep rhythms are off. You need to work on yourself. I’m a pediatrician and this blog is not really medical advice but life advice, but I’m certainly not going to give anything close to medical advice to adults. (Please read my disclaimer).
- Blue Light in all Devices Triggers Spike in Coritsol (Bad Hormone for Sleep) and Plummets Melatonin (Good Hormone for Sleep): Get off your devices at least 1-2 hours before your desired sleep time. You want to go to bed by 9pm, then there needs to be a gong that sounds at 8pm to get off all devices. We just bought our tween daughter blue light blocking glasses at Staples and she likes them.
- Avoid Caffeine In General, But Certainly After 4pm. I am horrified that there are children that drink caffeinated beverages. I can honestly tell you that my two children have had a caffeinated beverage rarely. I certainly never let them have soda like Sprite or 7-up but never dark soda with caffeine. And not coffee. I myself started drinking coffee at 31 after the birth of my second child. I used to drink a lot of coffee. Now, I usually drink about 2 cups a day and no longer drink any after 4pm. If you drink even less or none, that is better. I used to drink coffee for the sweet fix, but I bought some organic raisins and a few raisins does the trick. It works for me and is weird, but no caffeine for children. Certainly for adults, no caffeine after 4pm.
- Darker the Room the Better, the More Peaceful the Room the Better. It makes sense that to help your child’s body produce melatonin, you need to mimick the circumstances evolutionarily that we need to sleep. There needs to be darkness. If you have a good heart, you should not be afraid of actual darkness. Be afraid of dark people and dark souls, but not the actual dark. You need darkness to sleep. I recommend black out curtains especially if there is ambient light coming in from outside. All the nightlights, light from computer screens and digital clocks – all that has to go. I know this, but last night there were two digital devices lighting up. I took two towels and draped one over Mr. Plastic Picker’s reading station screen and the other over the computer (I was using it for rhythmic music) to dampen the lights. Didn’t cost me anything as I have the towels already. Who doesn’t have towels at home? Also an organized and clean bedroom that is conducive to sleep helps as well.
- Try Not To Eat After 8pm and certainly Avoid Anything with Sugar: It’s really important to eat an earlier dinner, and to not eat after a certain time. For our family the rule is after 8pm. Mr. Plastic Picker brushes his teeth. This is a good deterrent.
- The Sun and the Moon set your Internal Clock: There is much talk about circadian rhythm in hormone secretions. It’s fascinating and something that I’ve always been aware of since I did half of a pediatric endocrine fellowship. I now realize my heart was not really in it, and I should have done pulmonology and just skipped chief residency year. But everything is 2020 in hindsight and I would not have had my tween daughter as she was conceived during endocinre fellowship. But realize that your child’s body has an internal clock that is mediated by the sun and the moon. More exposure to the sun and the moon especially at times like the early mornings and the sun set, are natural amplifiers in the hormones that should be secreted at certain times of day.
- Moonbathing. I’ve been doing more yoga lately, and twice as the sun was setting and the young moon is visible in that early evening sky. You can look at the moon directly which is so beautiful. Just like your mother’s face, we can look at this celestial body directly. Think about the concept of moonbathing whehter you are just looking at the moon, doing gentle stretches under the moon, or actual yoga at night. Last night, I took at long look at the moon from our bedroom window and could then picture it in my mind. And then I moved to the next step.
- Yoga at Night or Some Kind of Meditation. Since we are supposed to be off our devices for an hour before bed anyway, what are we supposed to do for that hour. I’ve improved my sleep quite a bit over the last year but I think last night I really figured out what works for me. Some of our more religiously minded colleagues probably pray, and prayer is actually also a form of meditation and mindfullness. If you are able to meditate at night, this is powerful. For me, I just turned on one of the many fantastic YouTube Videos Yoga with Adrienne. She is a really peaceful and well regarded and kind yoga instructor online. She channels a lot of positive energy and doesn’t try to sell you anything, and models a healthy relationship with body. I did two yoga videos last night, Yoga for Sleep and Yoga for Feet. It felt so good.
- Rhythmic Music. For me what has helped quite a bit, was listening to ocean waves at night to help me sleep. I listened to this interview on NPR and here are bits and pieces of it, “showed people who got less deep sleep had more beta amyloid . . . Scientists also have some ideas about why deep sleep can reduce amyloid. In 2013, a study of mice found that their brains switched on a sort of dishwasher during sleep. Laura Lewis, a biomedical engineer at Boston University, says that appears to clear out waste products . . . We realized that there’s these waves of fluid flowing into the brain during sleep . . . What’s more, each wave of fluid was preceded by a large, slow electrical wave. So now scientists are looking for ways to induce the slow waves that signal deep sleep . . . There’s some evidence that rhythmic sounds can increase slow waves in people . . . The result – more deep sleep and more beta amyloid cleared from the brain. And Ju says there was another effect – participants’ brains began making less beta amyloid.” https://www.npr.org/2020/11/16/935475284/scientists-discover-a-link-between-lack-of-deep-sleep-and-alzheimers-disease And with that article and that imagery of waves of brain fluid washing away amyloid, I realize for me the ocean is so healing. I turn on rhythmic waves the last week during sleep time, and I kid you not – I have had fantastic sleep the last week. I had made all those little changes above as well but the clincher was the ocean waves. This is one of the Youtube videos I like for sleep https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bn9F19Hi1Lk
- Give Up the Idea that Anything Can be Reduced to A Gummy, and Save $$$. Sometimes before you can make life adjustments, you need to play pscyhological games with yourself. Realize the other reasons that all these above methods will benefit you. Just think of melatonin as something free that your child’s brain makes already, and why would you pay $30 for a bottle. Its about $0.25 a dose I calculated out. If I found a quarter on the street while litter picking, I would definitely pick that thing up!!! I would think ca-ching ca-ching!!!. And think that if you are doing anything of the above suggested steps, it’s like your child just made a quarter! Its like the feeling I had when our tween daughter unexpectedly won a scholarship for academic excellent at her elementary school graduation. It was a $750 scholarship. I was like, finally she is making some money. When your child gets a good sleep, you are saving a quarter. Not only are you saving a quarter, you are saving your child from metabolic diseases like diabetes and fatty liver. You are saving needing more academic tutors, because Dr. Craig Canapari reminded us in one of his YouTube videos that 25% of academic performance is related purely to your sleep habits. Tutors run at least $50 an hour these days.
And that is it. That is just a my fun and off-beat take on why the answer to your child’s sleep is NOT MELATONIN GUMMIES. The answer is good parenting. Sunlight and moonlight, Do not be afraid of darkness. Imagine the waves of brain fluid that wash away the beta amyloid that causes Alzheimers. These waves can be formed by listening to ocean sounds at night, and also creating your own nightime waves by quieting your body at night with meditation or Yoga with Adrienne.
And with that wonderful night-time of sleep, Dr. Plastic Picker is up and ready to have a peaceful Sunday. Its almost 6AM and my body naturally rose at about 430AM and I’m finished with my blogpost now. This blog post saves me a lot of time, because I am just going to refer my own patients to read this. Again, please check with your own pediatrician! If you are my patient, than thank you for reading! I’ll see you in the office. And I can get even more sleep now, because if you all sleep well – I will have less chronic medical issues to deal with in the office.