Serotonin and Melatonin: Why Your Baby Needs Both for Good Sleep

Have you taken your baby outside for a walk yet today? If not, get your stroller or baby sling ready: Spending time outdoors during the day isn’t just great for the exercise and fresh air, but it can also help your baby sleep better at night. 

That’s due to the unique interplay between serotonin and melatonin. These two molecules in your body work together to help create a healthy sleep cycle. Here’s what you should know.

What Is Serotonin?

Serotonin doubles as a hormone and as a chemical messenger called a neurotransmitter. Mood regulation is one of its most vital functions. Balanced serotonin levels can decrease feelings of anxiety or depression symptoms. 

What Is Melatonin?

You’ve probably seen melatonin supplements in stores or online. They’re sold as sleep aids because the melatonin hormone sets the tone for your sleep/wake cycle. Melatonin is produced when it’s dark, which supports your circadian rhythms, synchronizes your body clock “time of day,” and signals the brain that it’s time to sleep.

The Relationship Between Serotonin and Melatonin

Your body needs serotonin to produce melatonin. And one way to trigger serotonin release is through sun exposure. Johns Hopkins sleep expert Luis F. Buenaver, Ph.D., C.B.S.M. recommends exposure to daylight during the morning and afternoon to sync your body’s clock with the sun’s cycle.⁠

And that’s why outdoor walks or playtime with your baby is so important. Plus, the serotonin boost can elevate your mood and relieve your baby’s fussiness. 

Here are a few tips for maximizing your daytime fun:

  • Time playtime around naps.

Don’t let outdoor fun interfere with your nap schedule. Your baby will need regular naps to help fill the sleep tank each day and make it easier to go to bed at night. (Read my blog to learn more about nap goals for babies ages 4 months to 12 months.)

  • Dress appropriately for the weather.

Don’t let cold temperatures keep you and your little ones indoors. Dress in layers and bring your baby’s favorite blanket to stay cozy while outside. When it’s warm, bring hats and sunscreen for both of you, and keep your infant out of direct sunlight as much as possible.

  • Keep bright lights limited to daytime.

Reinforce your baby’s body clock by turning down lights and using light-blocking shades. This is especially helpful during the months when the days are longer, and bedtime may happen before the sun goes down. The darkness tells your baby it’s time for sleep and encourages melatonin production.

Sleep training is an art and a science. I can help you find the best methods for sweet sleep support. Schedule a 30-minute Sleep Consultation, and we can discuss your family’s specific sleep situation and identify strategies to get your family the sleep you need!⁠