Ending the toddler bedtime battle

Study finds a child goes to sleep faster when bedtime, body clock are in sync


New findings could lead to fewer battles at bedtime. A recent study found toddler's go to sleep faster when their bedtimes and body clocks are in sync.

"Researchers went in and took samples from the children to determine when their surge in melatonin occurred. Melatonin is a hormone that our bodies make that helps us to fall asleep and they found in this study that when the hormone surge occurred more closely to bedtime, it was easy for those children to fall asleep," explained Dr. Kim Giuliano, who did not take part in the study but is a pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic Children's.

University of Colorado researchers took melatonin samples from 14 kids, aged 30 months to 36 months.  Not only did they find differences as to when children's levels of melatonin started to increase, but they found a direct effect on how fast the children fell asleep.

Researchers say, on average, the children's melatonin levels started increasing about 7:40 p.m. and they fell asleep in about 30 minutes. But those who were put to bed before their melatonin levels started climbing took up to an hour to fall asleep.

Researchers say if your child resists bedtime or has trouble falling asleep, they may not be physiologically ready for sleep at that time. Giuliano says you obviously can't take your child's melatonin level every night, but you can look for other cues to clarify their body clock.

"That they're starting to rub their eyes, they might be slowing down a little bit in their activity level, or they might be getting a little bit crankier," Giuliano said.

Read more about this toddler sleep study from the University of Colorado Boulder.