The Practicing Parent: Battling Bedtime

If you're like me, it happens almost every night. We mention it's "time to go to sleep" or "let's get ready for bed" and my 2 year-old turns into a terror. But new findings could lead to fewer battles in the "battle of bedtime."

A recent study found toddlers go to sleep faster when their bedtimes and body clocks are in sync. University of Colorado researchers took melatonin samples from 14 kids from 2 1/2 to 3 years old. 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.

Cleveland Clinic Pediatrician Dr. Kim Giuliano explains.

"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," Dr. Giuliano said.

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.

Dr. Giulano said you can't take your child's melatonin level every night, but you can look for other cues to clarify their body clock.

"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.

Compete findings for the study can be found in the journal, "Mind, Brain and Education."