Effective Natural Sleep Aids for Kids: A Detailed Guide

Effective Natural Sleep Aids for Kids: A Detailed Guide

Effective Natural Sleep Aids for Kids: A Detailed Guide

As nighttime falls, many families face a common challenge: ensuring their children get enough good quality and restful sleep. 

Among the UK’s young population, sleep issues aren’t just a bedtime story but a significant concern, with one study discovering that up to 50% of children will experience a sleep problem. The NHS also reports that sleep problems affect up to a staggering  34% of children aged 7 to 16 years three or more times a week. 

In addition, a recent  report from the World Health Organisation’s Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC) revealed that one in four children in the UK don’t get enough sleep, with the issue escalating with age. 

This alarming trend highlights the need for effective solutions and the importance of sleep in little ones. Not only is sleep a pause and a chance to recuperate from daily activities, but it’s also the foundation for a child’s mental and physical well-being. 

As a result, many parents ask themselves, ‘What can I give my child to help them sleep?’ That’s where sleep aids for kids come in, like  Novomins’ Kids Night-Time Gummies, which contain magnesium citrate to support sleep and reduce fatigue.

This article will explore the importance of quality sleep for children and effective solutions to help your child sleep, including sleep aids for kids, natural remedies and supplements, lifestyle adjustments and more. Read on to discover medications to help your child sleep through the night and alternative solutions.

The importance of quality sleep for children

Children and  teenagers need substantially more sleep than adults, which is why its importance can’t be emphasised enough. Sleep has a profound effect on kids' overall growth and development, impacting not only their physical health but also their mental, social and emotional well-being. 

Think of sleep as a superpower for your child, helping their young mind and body to reboot, rebuild and prepare for life's adventures the next day.

It plays a critical role in a child's  cognitive functions such as memory, attention and learning and influences their mood, behaviour and general capacity to engage in daily activities. 

Crucial for sharpening minds, a well-rested child is much more likely to excel in school and have higher levels of concentration and problem-solving skills. 

But it's not all about academics. Sleep also plays a pivotal role in children's emotional well-being, making them less prone to irritability and better equipped to handle the highs and lows of daily life. Over time, a lack of zzz's might even open doors to anxiety, depression and other  mental health problems.

So, just how much sleep does your child actually need? 

While there's no one magic number that fits all,  general guidelines recommend that children between the ages of 6 and 12 get 9 to 12 hours of sleep and teenagers 8 to 10 hours each night. 

By establishing a healthy sleep routine, you're not only aiding their physical and mental growth today but paving the way for their health and emotional well-being in the future.

Challenges around children’s sleep issues

For many children, drifting off to sleep isn’t quite as simple as closing their eyes, and common sleep problems include difficulty with self-settling, changes in routine and discomfort. 

Some need a parent’s presence to fall asleep, whereas others need movement and like being rocked or driven around. While soothing, this dependency can later lead to disruptions and waking up during the night. 

Changes in routine, like during holidays and festive seasons, can also disrupt children’s sleep patterns. Add to this the physical discomfort from an unsupportive mattress, illnesses like the common cold or even irritable conditions like eczema, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for restless nights. 

Other issues include feeling hungry or thirsty as well as anxiety or fear of the dark, which can make bedtime a much more daunting prospect for children and parents alike.

On the more clinical side, insomnia — characterised by trouble falling or staying asleep —‚ is a significant issue, affecting  20% to 30% of children. It can be categorised into behavioural insomnia, stemming from bedtime resistance and common in children up to five years, as well as  conditioned insomnia, which is more common in older children and linked to anxiety about sleep itself. 

Other common and significant sleep disorders include  parasomnias, which bring a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘things that go bump in the night’. 

Parasomnias include a range of behaviours like sleepwalking, bedwetting and night terrors that involve waking up suddenly with intense fear and occur in about  30% of children. Upsetting and unsettling for both the child and family while they persist, the good news is that  parasomnias tend to resolve as children grow up. 

What is the best medicine to put a child to sleep?

For parents seeking medication to help their child sleep through the night, here we’ll compare two of the best medicines for putting a child to sleep: magnesium citrate and melatonin.

  Magnesium Citrate Melatonin
What is it? A form of magnesium essential for muscle and nerve function that helps regulate sleep-related neurotransmitters. A hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, beneficial for treating short-term sleep problems.
Pros Can relieve stress, calm hyperactive behaviour and improve sleep quality. Can shorten the time it takes to fall asleep in children with certain sleep disorders.
Cons Potential mild stomach upset, gas or nausea. Not recommended for children under the age of three. Possible side effects include sleepiness, headaches, dizziness and nausea.
Dosage

Varies by age: 

  • 1-3 years - 80 mg
  • 4-8 years - 130 mg
  • 9-13 years - 240 mg
  • 14-18 years - 410 mg
As prescribed by a healthcare provider.
Specific Product Novomins' Kids Night-Time Gummies, with magnesium citrate, help support children’s sleep and reduce tiredness.  Prescription-only in the UK.

Magnesium Citrate

What is it? 

Magnesium citrate is a highly absorbable form of magnesium, a mineral essential for  healthy muscles and nerve function that can act as a  sleep aid for kids

It can help regulate neurotransmitters related to sleep and is vital in controlling cortisol levels (the stress hormone), making it easier to fall and stay asleep and improving sleep quality.

Pros: 

The proven health benefits of magnesium include stress relief and improved sleep. Taking a magnesium supplement, like  Novomins’ Kids Magnesium Gummies, can help your child feel more relaxed and calm hyperactive behaviour. For more information, take a look at our guide that explores the health benefits of  magnesium for kids.

Cons: 

Mild stomach upset and discomfort, including gas or nausea, is a possible side effect.

Dosage: 

The  recommended dose of magnesium for children is as follows:

  • 1-3 years: 80 mg
  • 4-8 years: 130 mg
  • 9-13 years: 240 mg
  • 14-18 years: 410 mg

Novomins’ Gummies: 

Try  Novomins’ Kids Night-Time Gummies, which contain magnesium citrate and are specially formulated to support children’s sleep, reducing tiredness and fatigue. 

With five-star reviews, they promote regular and consistent sleep, and children love their playful bear shape and delicious strawberry flavour with no artificial colours or preservatives. 

Melatonin

What is it? 

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in your body that plays a crucial function in sleep and helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle, making it a great sleep aid for kids.

Melatonin levels rise at night to prepare your body for sleep before returning to normal levels during the day. Beneficial for those whose  circadian rhythm runs later than usual, it can be used to treat  short-term sleep problems and  insomnia in children but is available in the UK via prescription only.  

Pros: 

Melatonin can shorten the time it takes to fall asleep in children with insomnia, ADHD and autism spectrum disorders and is safe when used correctly. In fact, studies have shown that melatonin can reduce the time it takes a child to fall asleep by 15 minutes resulting in a 19-minute increase in sleep.  

Cons: 

Melatonin is generally not recommended for kids younger than  3 years old, and children can only take it if recommended by a specialist. Side effects can also include sleepiness, minor headaches, dizziness and nausea.

Dosage

As instructed by your local GP or healthcare provider. 

Other solutions to children’s sleep issues

Aside from conventional medication, melatonin and magnesium, other holistic approaches can act as a great sleep aid for kids.
 

Feature Valerian Root Chamomile L-Theanine Essential Oils Lifestyle Adjustments Sleep Aid Spray
What is it? A herb known for its sedative qualities. A daisy-like herb used for its calming properties. An amino acid found in tea leaves. Concentrated plant extracts used for their therapeutic effects. Practices to create a better sleeping environment. Sprays containing ingredients for relaxation.
Benefits Helps shorten the time it takes to fall asleep and improves sleep quality. Good for anxiety-related insomnia. Mild sedative effect, aids in relaxation. Anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties. Promotes relaxation without drowsiness. Reduces stress. Lavender, orange, ginger, and peppermint scents can create a calming atmosphere. Establishing a routine, natural daylight, physical activity and dietary considerations can all improve sleep quality. Soothes children to sleep with natural ingredients like lavender.
How to use Available in supplements or as tea. Commonly consumed as tea. Available in supplement form as well as naturally in green tea. Used in diffusers, added to baths, or applied to pillows when diluted. Implement regular bedtime routines and daily habits. Spray on your child's pillow. 
Things to keep in mind Generally well-tolerated, recommended for short-term use. Start with lower doses. Generally safe, but avoid if allergic to Asteraceae plants. Generally safe but consult a healthcare professional for dosages in children. Always dilute and use cautiously around infants and children with asthma. Adjust to your child's needs and preferences.

Ensure that it’s suitable for children and check for allergens.



 

Natural remedies & supplements

Valerian Root

What is it? 

A herb native to Europe and Asia, Valerian has been used for centuries and is known for its sedative and soothing qualities.

Benefits:

This common herbal sleep aid is believed to shorten the time it takes to fall asleep and improve sleep quality. It’s especially beneficial for children who experience  anxiety-related insomnia, providing natural relief from sleep disturbances.

How to use

Valerian root is available in various formats and is typically found in supplements or drunk as tea.

Things to keep in mind

While Valerian is generally well-tolerated, it's best to start with lower doses. It's also important to point out that long-term effects are not well studied, so it's often recommended for short-term use under guidance, especially for children. 

Chamomile

What is it? 

Chamomile is a gentle daisy-like herb famous for its medicinal and calming properties and is traditionally used to treat sleeping problems like insomnia and anxiety.

Benefits

The herb has mild sedative effects, making it a good choice for children who need extra help relaxing and winding down and is also known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties.

How to use

Chamomile is most commonly consumed as a tea, which is a suitable sleep aid for kids and is popular worldwide.

Things to keep in mind

While chamomile is generally safe, caution is advised for those who are allergic to plants from the Asteraceae family. 

L-Theanine

What is it?  

L-Theanine is an amino acid found in tea leaves and is commonly found in black, white, oolong, and green tea, which contains the highest amount. 

Benefits

The amino acid is known to promote relaxation without causing drowsiness, helps reduce stress and anxiety and potentially promotes better sleep. 

How to use

L-theanine is available in supplement form and is naturally present in green tea. 

Things to keep in mind

L-Theanine is generally safe and well-tolerated, but suitable dosages for children should always be discussed with a healthcare professional. 

Essential Oils

What is it? 

Essential oils are concentrated extracts from plants, each with their own unique properties, that are beneficial for relaxation and their therapeutic effects.

Benefits

Essential oils like lavender, orange, ginger, and peppermint are considered safe and effective for children and can be diffused in their bedroom to create a calming atmosphere and encourage sleep. 

Lavender, in particular, is well known for its calming and sleep-inducing properties, making it a wonderful natural sleep aid for kids.

How to use

These oils can be used in diffusers, added to baths or applied to a pillow when diluted. 

Things to keep in mind

Essential oils should always be diluted and used cautiously, especially around infants and children with asthma. Direct application to the skin should also be avoided to avoid irritation. 

Lifestyle adjustments

Create a bedtime routine

Establishing a consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine, including activities like taking a warm bath or reading a book, can significantly improve your child's sleep quality. 

Get natural daylight

Exposure to natural daylight, especially in the morning, helps reset your  circadian clock, benefiting your sleeping patterns and resulting in your child feeling more awake and alert during the day but sleepy at night, so they fall asleep quicker.

Reduce screen time

Limiting exposure to screens at least an hour before bedtime can help regulate the body's internal sleep clock. 

Encourage outdoor activities

Regular physical activity, especially in the fresh air, will not only help deplete your kid's energy for a better night's rest but also regulate their body's sleep cycle.

Avoid caffeine and sugar: 

Avoiding caffeine and reducing their sugar intake, especially before bedtime, can positively impact your child's quality of sleep.

Use relaxation techniques

Encourage your child to relax and wind down before bed, either through meditation, listening to calm music or a relaxing and soothing bath to prepare their mind and body for sleep. 

Sleep aid spray

Similar to pillow sprays for adults, a sleep aid spray usually contains calming natural ingredients like lavender and is designed to gently soothe children to sleep.

It’s always important to choose a spray that is specifically formulated for babies and children, ensuring the ingredients are both suitable and safe.

Sleep aids for neurodivergent children

Sleep Aids for ADHD Children

Children with ADHD often experience difficulties with sleep due to hyperactivity, which can lead to insomnia and other sleep disruptions. 

While medication can help, opting for a natural sleep aid for ADHD children can be just as effective. 

Establishing a good bedtime routine and creating a calm sleeping environment is just as, if not more, crucial than medications. Behavioural and lifestyle adjustments such as reducing screen time and ensuring physical activity during the day are also beneficial. 

It’s also important to note that there are three main types of ADHD and related sleep problems can differ depending on the ADHD type.

Melatonin can be a particularly effective sleep aid due to the delayed onset of melatonin production in the brains of children with ADHD compared to neurotypical children, which contributes to late sleep onset. 

Using melatonin supplements can help to rebalance and adjust this delay, helping children with ADHD to fall asleep quicker. In fact,  studies have shown that low doses of melatonin can increase the length of sleep in young people with ADHD. 

Sleep Aids for Autistic Children

For children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), sleep disturbances are notably higher compared to their neurotypical counterparts, with approximately  66% experiencing moderate sleep issues. 

Melatonin is commonly recommended as a sleep aid for autistic children thanks to its effectiveness in regulating sleep-wake cycles. Magnesium is also recommended, helping with sleep regulation, insomnia and chronic sleep issues often linked to magnesium deficiency. 

Additionally, assessing your child's vitamin D levels should also be considered.  Vitamin D plays an important role in regulating sleep, especially consideringchildren with autism tend to have  lower levels of the vitamin compared to their peers. 

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Sleep Aids for Anxious Children

Incorporating supplements like Magnesium, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin D can be beneficial sleep aids for anxious children, alongside a soothing bedtime routine. 

Magnesium supports the health of the nervous system, promoting relaxation and calmness, while vitamin B6 has been linked to reducing feelings of stress, anxiety and depression.  Vitamin D is also essential for regulating mood, with deficiencies exacerbating anxiety symptoms. 

A combination of nutritional support from  Novomins kids supplements, a calming bedtime routine and natural sleep aids like chamomile tea can create a stress-free bedtime experience. This approach will ease your child's anxiety and ultimately help them sleep better.

What is the best sleep aid for children according to the research?

So just what is the best sleep aid for children? Unfortunately, there's no singular 'best' sleep aid for kids, as the effectiveness and results can and will vary depending on individual needs and specific sleep issues. 

However,  professional guidance often emphasises the importance of establishing healthy sleep habits to create a good foundation. This includes maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a calm bedtime routine, ensuring a good sleeping environment and ensuring a  balanced diet with crucial vitamins and minerals like magnesium. 

Melatonin is a good  short-term option for improving sleep, especially when working on developing better sleep hygiene. However, it should only be used under medical supervision and as recommended by your doctor.

One thing that's overwhelmingly clear is the guidance from healthcare professionals suggesting that a holistic approach combining  good nutrition, healthy sleeping habits and a calming bedtime routine is most effective. 

Ultimately, the best approach is personalised and considers your child's overall health, lifestyle and specific sleep challenges. For further advice and a tailored course of action for your little one, consult your local GP.

Kick-start your child’s journey to restful nights with Novomins

Addressing kids’ sleep issues can be a complicated task with multiple options and solutions. But the journey to improved sleep starts with a better understanding of the importance of sleep quality and recognising the unique challenges that your child might face.

From popular and effective sleep aids for kids like melatonin and magnesium citrate to the benefits of natural remedies and lifestyle adjustments, every child’s path to a restful night is unique.

Supplements can also play a crucial role, especially when deficiencies start affecting sleeping patterns. That’s where Novomins comes in. Co-Founder of Novomins Nutrition, Dr. Peter Mcquillan, highlights the importance of sleep for kids, sharing his personal experience with Novomins’ gummies:

“Restful sleep is a cornerstone of children’s growth and development. With a natural vegan formula that is non-addictive, you both can rest assured.”

Infused with magnesium citrate, gummies are a delicious, child-friendly option that not only supports sleep but also contributes to the overall well-being of your child.

At Novomins, every product is crafted with care, expertise and a deep understanding of your family’s nutritional needs. So, whether it’s tackling sleep issues or enhancing overall health, Novomins ensures your child always gets the very best.

Offering a path to better sleep that’s grounded in care and expertise, discover the Novomins Kid range, including their Kids Night-Time Gummies, and take the first step towards better sleep for your child.

Experiencing problems with sleep yourself? Check out our range of tasty and convenient sleep and relaxation gummies for adults

 

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AUTHORED BY

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Dr Peter McQuillan
BDS, MFDS P1, Dip Ortho Founder & Chief Formulator
With over 15 years of experience in the healthcare sector, Dr McQuillan is a highly esteemed professional in the healthcare space.

REVIEWED BY

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Akil Memishi
BSc Hons Pharmacology, ICH GCP Founder & Chief Clinical Researcher
Akil Memishi, co-founder of Novomins, combines his extensive clinical research experience with a passion for developing scientifically-backed nutritional products.
Review Date:
3 February 2023
Next Review:
3 February 2025
Published On:
22 January 2024
Last Updated:
4 October 2023