Melatonin, also called the “sleep hormone”. This hormone is produced in the brain and ensures that we become tired and sleepy. Depending on the time of day, more or less of it is produced. Perhaps you have already noticed that you are more tired in the evening in winter compared to summer. This is partly due to the fact that it gets dark earlier in winter. The melatonin level is highest at night because it is dark. A lot of light and, above all, blue light can then be very confusing for our day/night sleep rhythm. If you want to read more about blue light and its impact on sleep, have a look HERE.
When bedtime is coming closer there is a rise in melatonin levels. Melatonin governs our night-time sleep cycles and differentiates night sleep from day sleep in our brain.
Melatonin is released in response to darkness
Back in the days before there was electric light and dusk approached, our bodies started to release this hormone which made us sleepy and ready to go to bed. This is often also why in summer we are awake longer and in winter we are earlier tired.
The natural bedtime of most babies and children tend to be when it starts to be dark outside. During summer the sun sets later and many babies and children have difficulties to settle and fall asleep. This is because the sleep hormone are not produced and their body doesn’t “tell” them it’s time to sleep yet. Switching into their night-time sleep cycles is not working out so well. Black out blinds or curtains are perfect solutions, as well as a long relaxing bedtime ritual in a darkened room. Read more about bedtime routines in chapter “Bedtime Routines”
“Melatonin is only produced in the dark, that’s why a nice long relaxing bedtime ritual in a darkened room is very useful”
Melatonin and sleep quality
Once your child is asleep, their melatonin levels rise in their bodies until around midnight. During these hours, sleep is most restorative. After midnight the melatonin levels drop. This is often why babies tend to sleep good until around midnight, and after that start waking up more frequently. Especially if they haven’t learned how to self-settle or if something is bothering them.
Around 5 AM the melatonin is as good as gone out of our systems. This is where the night cycle ends and we enter a period of very light sleep. If there is anything bothering your child, such as hunger, hot/cold, sounds, teething, they will struggle falling back asleep and wake up.