Kids need a lot of sleep. In fact, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends children aged six to 12 years sleep nine to 12 hours per night, and that teenagers should sleep eight to 10 hours. But for some kids, hitting those numbers is easier said than done—and the consequences of not getting enough quality rest run deep.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that 25 to 50 percent of children have sleep problems,” says The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Brittany Michels, M.S., R.D.N., L.D.N. “Lack of sleep and poor-quality sleep have both been associated with a decline in attention and alertness, learning and memory, cognitive performance, and even mood.”
Though there are plenty of tactics you can try in order to improve your kids’ sleep routines, certain natural supplements that support a good snooze can come in handy in some cases. Here’s what you should know about your options.
When should parents consider a kid-friendly sleep supplement?
“If children complain that they have trouble falling asleep or have difficulty staying awake or concentrating during the day due to lack of sleep, you might consider incorporating certain supplements into their evening routine,” says Roseanne Schnell, C.D.N., another nutritionist for The Vitamin Shoppe. This can be especially helpful if you’ve already tried a number of other strategies and nighttime ritual tweaks without success.
If you’re interested in exploring natural ways to support your child’s sleep, talk to their pediatrician or doctor first to rule out any medication interactions or discuss other concerns.
The best sleep supplements for kids
Luckily, there are plenty of kid-friendly supplements to try if your child keeps coming up short on sleep. And, many of them come in forms specifically created to appeal to children, such as gummies, chews, and liquids. Here are four of the most popular options..
“Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate the body’s sleep cycle,” explains Schnell. When darkness rolls in around evening-time, the brain responds by upping the production of melatonin, which signals to the body that it’s time to wind down, making us feel tired. Because of its role in the body, taking a melatonin supplement may be helpful for little ones who have trouble drifting off when it’s time for light’s out.
“Kids should take 0.5 milligrams initially and increase by 0.5 milligrams as needed to support a restful night of sleep,” says Michels. “Start low and go slow!” She recommends kids ages three to five not exceed one milligram per night while kids six to 12 stick to two milligrams or less.
For best results, have your child take their supplement 30 minutes to one hour before bed.
- The Vitamin Shoppe brand Raspberry Liquid Melatonin
- Zarbee’s Children’s Sleep with Melatonin Natural Grape Tablets
- Olly Razzzberry Kids Sleep Gummies with Melatonin and L-Theanine
A popular supplement amongst people of all ages, “magnesium is an essential mineral that supports relaxation and sleep,” says Schnell. Though it’s found in all sorts of foods, most people don’t get enough, meaning that a supplement can help many people truly meet their needs and reap the bedtime benefits.
Since taking too much at once can cause loose stools, Michels recommends starting slow and increasing the dosage gradually, easing off slightly if any digestive changes pop up.
Here are the recommended dosages for various age groups:
- 1-3 years old: 65 milligrams per day
- 4-8 years old: 110 milligrams per day
- 9-18 years old: 350 milligrams per day
- Natural Vitality Natural Calm Kids Mixed Berry Magnesium Powder
- Natures Plus Animal Parade Mag Kidz Chewable Magnesium
“L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea that has natural relaxing effects and supports sleep,” says Schnell. And while tea often contains caffeine, which can keep kids up at night, an l-theanine supplement offers those calming perks without the undesirable energy boost.
Start with 50 milligrams for children ages eight and older, and increase to up to 200 milligrams for children 12 and older, suggests Schnell.
4. Lemon Balm
An under-appreciated but totally great kid’s sleep supplement, “lemon balm supports nervousness and overexcitement,” says Michels. This herb, which is a part of the mint family, has been shown in studies to increase levels of GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid), a neurotransmitter that decreases nervous system stimulation, bringing about a calming effect in the brain during sleep, which may support sleep quality.
Kids between 25 and 49 pounds can take up to 200 milligrams of lemon balm, according to Michels.