By contributing writer Kim Christopher of The Mommy Machine
Even in May I encountered difficulties with my twin toddlers, who up to this point have been pretty good sleepers. I’m now met with distrusting looks when I ask them to change into their pajamas. It’s clear to them that I’m trying to pull some kind of con, since the sun is still shining and the birds are singing, yet I’m asking them to brush their teeth and say their prayers.
I was mentioning my kids’ sleep resistance to a fellow mother of twins, who recommended trying peppermint melatonin. She uses it on her fraternal boys, and swears by it. A friend standing next to her nodded, and admitted that she, too, takes melatonin each night to help her sleep. I didn’t know what they were talking about. How can I have reached this far in life and never heard of melatonin supplements?
I must confess that I don’t like the word “melatonin.” Sounds too much like melanoma, if you ask me. Based on the women’s glowing reviews, however, I decided to look into the stuff a little further. Like any good mom, I contacted Dr. Google right away. . . .
Turns out that melatonin is indeed marketed as a natural sleep aid. But, really, who needs the actual melatonin? Just reading about it caused me to doze off as I slogged my way through everything I never wanted to know about receptors and circadian rhythms and terminal antioxidants. The few studies that have been conducted suggest that, when given temporarily, melatonin is successful and generally risk-free in helping the majority of subjects fall asleep. Melatonin is recommended mostly for children with ADHD and those with delayed neurological development. Does it matter that my children are just cranky?
Melatonin is a natural hormone found in the body; the pineal gland is triggered by darkness to produce melatonin, which helps humans to sleep well. Unfortunately for Alaskans, light—especially the kind of blue light that currently emanates from your computer screen—inhibits melatonin production. While I don’t allow my twins to fall asleep in front of a computer or TV monitor, they do receive too much light when they’re in bed . . . the Alaskan sun has a way of peeking through their curtains well into the evening hours. Maybe a boost in melatonin would help my children to rest easier.
I searched the vitamin aisle of my grocery store and found melatonin tablets, but not peppermint-flavored. There’s no way my kids can swallow a pill, especially one that tastes like cardboard; I suppose I could crush it and sprinkle it into their food, but that seems like a lot of work. Then I spied a liquid form in a small vial that looked exactly like the de-worming medicine I had to dribble on the skin of my cat. Do you think it would work to rub some melatonin between my children’s shoulder blades where they can’t reach to lick it off? I finally had to call my friend and ask her where in the heck she found chewable peppermint melatonin. Oh. In the health food section. Now I’m really confused. Aren’t all vitamins and supplements healthy? Why is there a vitamin aisle in the main part of the grocery story AND a separate shelf of vitamins in the health food aisle? Are those the special super-powerful organic vitamins that only vegans know about? No one can answer.
I bought a jar of peppermint melatonin for five bucks and change, and headed home with the thrill of hope in my heart. Before I tried them on my unsuspecting children, though, I thought it wise that I sample the melatonin first. I crunched down a pill—mmm, peppermint!—and settled into my bed a little earlier than usual, in case I unexpectedly fell into a deep sleep. A few hours later, I dozed off at my normal time. I slept fitfully, waking up several times throughout the night to check if I felt drowsier than normal. I couldn’t tell.
The next day, I googled “melatonin side effects.” Bad idea. I found a number of sites reporting that too much melatonin can cause headaches, nausea, depression, nightmares, irritability, and dizziness. Darn, no diarrhea. I don’t trust the information, though, because after they disrespect the melatonin, the sites try to sell a different herbal supplement that they’re sure will help with insomnia. Still, I’m scared to death now to give peppermint melatonin to my kids. They’re irritable and dizzy enough as it is.
I need to figure out some other way to deal with the Alaskan evening light. I suppose I could tape a double layer of tin foil over the windows . . .
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