It started off innocently enough. I was talking to a parent whose kid was in the same daycare class as my daughter and as you may know, with parents with young kids, the majority of conversations revolve around either poop or sleep! This particular conversation was about sleep. His almost 4-year old was a pain in the butt to get to sleep at every single nap and bedtime. They’d resorted to trying to tire him out every day after school to no avail and as a last-ditch effort, they tried melatonin in gummy form. It worked like a charm. At the current time, getting my daughter to go to sleep wasn’t an issue so I didn’t buy melatonin right away but filed the conversation away in my mental Rolodex if it ever did.
Unfortunately, getting her to go to sleep at bedtime became a problem sooner rather than later. It had been the case that my daughter would put up some fight at bedtime but it was typically no longer than a 10 to 15-minute protest. A couple of weeks after my melatonin playground conversation, I started to notice that the protest seemed to be evolving. It started off by growing to a 20 to 30-minute protest and with each passing day, it seemed to get longer with the longest being a little over an hour. My husband joked about making her bedtime later but that was absolutely not going to happen. After bedtime was when I got the majority of my adulting done and I wasn’t quite ready to give it up. I also knew that she needed her rest and that this nightly protest was a way of testing us and that if we made her bedtime later, she would eventually start to stall as soon as her body adjusted to the new later bedtime. I wasn’t falling into that trap.
So I decided to give melatonin a try. I started off by doing my research to make sure that it was safe. All of the research that I discovered, including one study, alluded to the fact that in the short-term it was okay but that there was really no long-term research to support or refute its use. My research also supported my belief that sleep was crucial for my daughter’s growing brain and development. This research, coupled with the fact that I was at my wit's end helped me to decide that I would use it in the short term with the goal of figuring out how to get us back to a normal sleep routine without the use of melatonin in the long term.
Before giving the melatonin to my daughter, I described it to her as her sleepy vitamin and let her know that it would help her relax and fall asleep. That night she went to bed with minimal protest and the calmness that I experienced for the first time in a while was AMAZING! It could’ve been a placebo and perhaps I could’ve given her anything and told her that it would make her sleepy, but the melatonin was the card I had and the card I played. It didn’t take long for us all to get hooked on the melatonin.
I started to be afraid of not giving it to her and she started to think of it as a nightly treat and would ask for it. We easily fell into a melatonin pattern. I know that she can go without it because there have been nights when my husband and I have forgotten to give it to her, she forgot to ask for it and she slept just fine. But it's become a part of her routine so when she does remember it, she knows that she can put up a fight until she gets it.
Much of parenting feels like problem-solving. The minute you get comfortable in a routine or start to feel good about your parenting skills, your kids find a way of letting you know that it’s not okay to relax. For the most part, I enjoy problem-solving and don’t mind searching for good long-term practices that will get my family life back in order…occasionally though, I’m tired. Really, really tired and a nice quick fix is not only a time saver but a lifesaver as well. In the midst of the overwhelming and daily demands that pull me in every direction, melatonin has been my lifesaver.
I know that at some point in time, I’m going to have to work on creating better sleep practices and that regardless of whether or not long-term studies eventually show that it’s safe, she’ll get smarter and her stalling tactics will evolve. I can’t just be the person that doubles up her dosage. But for right now, it’s working and there is peace in my household at bedtime where there used to be chaos.