Study Helps Narrow in on Easiest Bedtime for Toddlers

Hormones play a role in when children can fall asleep easiest

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    NEWSLETTERS

    It could be a nightmare putting a baby to sleep, but scientists are learning how to understand babies’ biology to make bedtime easier. A new study shows that the cause of babies fighting sleep may be hormonal and knowing that much may provide a cure. Dr. Bruce Hensel reports for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 31, 2014. (Published Friday, Jan 31, 2014)

    It could be a nightmare putting a baby to sleep, but scientists are learning how to understand babies’ biology to make bedtime easier.

    A study shows that the cause of babies fighting sleep may be hormonal and knowing that much may provide a cure.

    Researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder studied 14 children between the ages of 30 and 36 months and found that the children's melatonin, the hormone that facilitates sleep, surges about 7:40 p.m.

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    "When the hormone surge occurred more closely to bedtime, it was easy for those children to fall asleep," said Dr. Kim Giuliano, with the Cleveland Clinic.

    The researchers found that the children fell asleep within 30 minutes of the surge, and those who were put to bed before their melatonin levels surged took up to an hour to fall asleep.

    So, what should parents do to help lay their little ones to bed?

    Since melatonin levels cannot be measured every night, researchers advise putting the youngest to bed by 8 p.m., when those levels are expected to be higher than other times during the day.

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    Reading babies’ body language and other clues can also help signal the best bedtime.

    Parents should look to see if babies “are 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.

    If a child has consistent problems sleeping, it could be related to other physical or mental health problems. Regular checkups and regular bedtimes will help the entire family.

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