3 Reasons To Try L-Theanine for your Special Needs Child

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Navigating the world of special needs parenting can feel like solving multiple puzzles all at once. Some you’ve solved before, and others drive you crazy trying to find the right piece! 

One of these puzzles is sleep. Parents are constantly making sure ALL the right pieces are in place to ensure a good night’s rest. At Melissa Doman Sleep Consulting we teach parents what those pieces are and how they work together. One of the major parts of the puzzle when helping a special needs child sleep is nutrition and supplementation.

In addition to supplements like magnesium and calcium, we often recommend an L-Theanine supplement to support quality sleep at night. This is often a game changer for autistics kids and children with ADHD.

So, what is L-Theanine?

L-Theanine is an amino acid that is in tea leaves and certain mushrooms. It helps to regulate the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain. More specifically, it can help increase levels of GABA in the brain which is a neurocalming amino acid. L-Theanine is not made in the body, so when it is added as a supplement it helps with GABA regulation. In turn, it is easier to fall asleep among other benefits!

L-Theanine can ease anxiety for special needs kids

Anxiety is very common for children with ASD, ADHD, and other disabilities. Anixety can increase due to stress from school, sensory overload, or a mix of triggers. Even the most attentive parents can find themselves dealing with the resulting dysregulation. This is why anxiety gets in a child’s way of getting to sleep.

For my own 3 year old, this might look like a case of the giggles, zoomies around the house, or loud repetitive singing that gets in the way of sleep. This is where L-Theanine comes in! This amino acid can come to the rescue by reducing stimulating brain chemicals and cortisol, creating the calm necessary for a restful night. 

L-theanine can be an especially beneficial tool to have in your toolbox during transitional periods, such as holidays, recovering from illness, or changes in routine.

L-theanine gives uninterrupted sleep without morning drowsiness

The goal of a good night’s sleep is a refreshing wake-up to start the day! However, families I speak to are unhappy with sleep medications they’ve been prescribed for their child. These meds either fail to sustain sleep, or leave their child feeling sluggish the next morning.  This can also happen with melatonin use, too.

L-Theanine is an alternative that is recognized as safe and well-tolerated. And, if your child responds well it can help your child get longer and more rejuvenating stretches of sleep without the morning grogginess associated with certain prescription sleep medications or melatonin. 

L-Theanine helps in the morning and nighttime!

L-Theanine is a supplement that can be given in the morning, too. By instilling a sense of calm and focus at the beginning of the day, it sets the stage for a positive domino effect. Reduced stress during the day may mean fewer states of fight or flight in the brain, increasing the likelihood of a restful night’s sleep. 

What forms does L-Theanine come in?

While L-Theanine naturally exists in foods like nuts, whole grains, broccoli, and mushrooms, due to pickiness or digestive issues, it might be better to give your child an L-Theanine supplement.  I know my three year old would MAYBE touch a mushroom, if I’m lucky.  Fortunately, L-theanine supplements are available in various forms, including liquids, powders, capsules, or gummies. 

L-theanine is a stand alone supplement, or mixed with others like magnesium, and/or GABA, which all work together nicely to promote relaxation.  Just be sure to double check dosage if your child is taking other supplements that contain these ingredients. 

How much L-theanine do I give my child with special needs?

We recommend starting with 25-50mg for children under 5, with an upper limit around 250mg for all ages. It’s best to consult with your child’s doctor before introducing L-Theanine to check for potential interactions with medications or medical conditions. This is especially important if your child has low or high blood pressure, or is taking stimulant medications. 

For example, Guanfacine, a medication commonly prescribed for ADHD, is a blood pressure medication as well that might have interactions with l-theanine.

In addition, we do not recommend giving L-theanine for the long term. Eventually, you should wean your child off of it. Similar to melatonin, your child’s body might become dependent on the L-theanine to get to sleep each night. Once your child is sleeping better, you can slowly start to reduce it to the minimum dose your child needs to maintain sleep.

What brands of L-theanine do you recommend?

As always, it’s important that when buying supplements that you carefully read labels and make sure that there’s nothing your child is allergic or intolerant to. Over the years, we’ve recommended a few different brands, depending on consistency. More importantly, these are all supplements that our families have tried with great success.

Liquid L-theanine: Liposomal Neurocalm

This liquid is easy to administer and a little bit can go a long way. It does have some taste, but it quickly dissolves. This product does contain GABA as well, which can help with the calming effect.

Gummy L-theamine: Olly Kids Chillax

This gummy has no cane sugar or artificial dyes or sweeteners. It does contain magnesium and lemon balm, but the magnesium is not so much that it can cause stomach upset.

Powder/Tablet L-theanine: Hiya Sleep Essentials

Hiya’s newest supplement contains several other supplements to help with a good night’s rest, including GABA, calcium, and more. These chewables are easy to give as is, or break up and stir into a liquid if needed. Hiya also offers a subscription, so you don’t have to worry about running out!

Will L-theanine fix my child’s sleep issues?

 L-Theanine alone isn’t a magic potion for inducing sleep! The key to good sleep for your special needs child is going to be the right combination of sleep hygiene, sensory stimulation, proper physical activity, and meeting nutritional needs.

If sleep challenges persist for your child with special needs, reach out to MDSC for help! MSCD is dedicated to assisting families in achieving the best possible sleep outcomes for our children with special needs.