Supplements and Sleep

There are a wide array of vitamin supplements on the market that claim to support health and wellness. Some state they are natural sleep aides for both children and adults. Let’s talk about the utility of a few common ones: melatonin, magnesium, and iron!

Melatonin is a supplement used for sleep. If you read my blog from last month, you’ll remember that melatonin is a hormone our body secretes. It accumulates in the pineal gland of our brain and is released into our blood stream as our brain receives information about the day-night cycle from our retina. Melatonin signals our brain to relax, slows our thinking, and allows us to drift off to sleep. It is considered a dietary supplement and as such, is not regulated by the FDA. The FDA has not recommended melatonin for children sleeping poorly. I strongly encourage any parent considering melatonin supplement to discuss it with your pediatrician. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, actual melatonin concentration versus the label varies greatly ranging from 80% less than to 400% more than stated.

Next up, magnesium. Magnesium is one of seven essential minerals for bodily function, including muscle/nerve function, blood pressure and blood sugar regulation, and bone and DNA formation. According to the Cleveland Clinic, magnesium may help regulate neurotransmitters that are directly related to sleep. Some studies have found that it may make falling asleep easier and improve sleep quality. It isn’t produced by the body so we must obtain it from external sources. Ideally, we should obtain adequate amounts through our diet. Food such as grains, nuts, spinach, squash, kale, and peas are great sources. Not exactly the foods our kids gravitate toward!! I suggest increasing magnesium rich foods before giving supplements. Another option is to incorporate Epsom salt into your bath routine. If you are concerned that your child is magnesium deficient and are interested in giving a supplement, the best approach is to seek the advice of your pediatrician.

Lastly, let’s tackle iron. Iron is another essential mineral our body needs for growth and development. It is naturally present in some foods, added to other foods, and available as a dietary supplement. Iron deficiency in infants and toddlers can impact neurodevelopment, behavior, and has been linked to alterations in sleep. As an essential mineral it does not work in your body by inducing drowsiness, instead if you are deficient, you experience indirect effects, including fatigue, weakness, and decreased focus. If you suspect that your child may have iron deficiency, it is best to follow up with your pediatrician for evaluation and guidance. Some iron rich foods include meat (beef, chicken, lamb), dark leafy greens, beans, oatmeal, nut butters, & chia seeds. The use of iron supplements should be given under the guidance of your pediatrician so blood levels can be monitored.

As you can see, there isn’t one supplement that helps us fall asleep or stay asleep. Our bodies are intricate with simultaneous actions that often depend on several factors to work efficiently. The takeaway is this. Melatonin is a hormone our body makes, and it contributes to the sleep-wake cycle. Magnesium and iron are essential minerals our bodies need. Instead of going to the shelf for supplements, incorporate healthy behaviors. Daylight exposure in the morning helps increase melatonin production. Magnesium and iron rich foods incorporated into a healthy diet will typically keep your levels normal. If you are concerned that your child may be deficient, it is safest to seek the care of your pediatrician before administering any supplement. Consider adjusting bedtime behaviors as a method to improve sleep instead of giving a supplement. If you want guidance on how to make these changes, please reach out for a free 15-minute discovery call. I’d be happy to help you and your family get the rest you need!