On the other hand, poor sleep is strongly linked with weight gain as well as a higher risk of heart disease and stroke, depression and more!
In children as young as preschool age, poor sleep increases the risk for emotional disorders later on in life and also increases the risk of negative affects on attention, working memory, reasoning, problem solving and behavioural problems by the time they are 7 years old. Safe to say that sleep is important to us all.
We’ve all been there. The day was a frenetic blur and now you’ve finally made it to bedtime and as tired as you are, your mind doesn’t and seemingly can’t shut down. Whether it’s to do lists at home, emails from work, or something to do with relationships and finances, it’s all running through your head at high speed.
You’re tired, but wired. Maybe it’s not you, maybe it your little one. She’s had a full day and is somehow still bouncing off the walls or asking for her tenth story, drink of water or pee break or whatever it happens to be that night. You hope and pray that she falls asleep, but it ends up taking one and a half to two hours (maybe more?) for sleep to happen. Sigh.
Maybe the problem isn’t getting to sleep, maybe it’s waking in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep. Regardless, it’s cutting in to your precious sleep time and you’re aching to get it figured out.
Who Does This Affect?
Virtually any adult or child can experience sleep problems and there are a lot of different reasons that it can happen, but barring medical sleep problems a lot of trouble sleeping is due to anxiety, nervous exhaustion, rumination or being overtired. At the top of the list of most common stressors causing anxiety for the average adult, is work stress, followed by death, divorce and relationships, job loss, increase financial obligations, getting married, moving to a new home and chronic illness.
So What Can Be Done To Ensure A Good Night Sleep?
There are certain steps you can take to set up both yourself and your little ones for sleep success.
- The first step is to avoid beverages with caffeine or stimulants past 2pm. These beverages include coffee, tea, hot chocolate, Coke/Pepsi and the like. Alcohol should also be avoided 2 to 3 hours as it causes disruptive sleep.
- Turn everyone’s sleeping space in to a dark, quiet, cool and calming oasis. No TVs, tablets or phones. Also stop using any screen device (cell phone, tablet, TV, computer) preferably one hour before going to sleep. Any blue or green spectrum light (the spectrum of light emitted from all screens) will stimulate your brain and lessen the production of the sleep hormone called melatonin. To create a dark environment, use blackout curtains and skip the night light. Use an eye mask if necessary. To achieve as much quiet as possible, use ear plugs and/or a white noise machine. Ensure your room is well ventilated and the temperature kept between 15 to 24 degrees Celsius.
- Ensure your or child’s room is well equipped with a comfortable bed and mattress, as well as blankets, pillows or ventilation that you need.
- If your pet sleeps with you or your children, it’s possible that they are causing a lot of interrupted sleep so consider alternate sleeping arrangements for your pet, so that you can all have an undisturbed sleep.
Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine
Start an hour before you’d like either yourself or the kids, to be asleep. Children thrive off of routine, so one or two relaxing activities that work for you. Here are a few examples of relaxing activities that help the mind and body wind down for the day:
- Read a book
- Take a bath
- Practice some relaxation techniques
- Practice yoga
- Do some stretching
- Do some positive journaling
Avoid anything that is stressful such as work or discussing intense emotional issues. If your little one seems wired by the time bedtime comes around and it’s a consistent issue, it may be that he or she needs an earlier bedtime. Some toddlers go to bed as early as 6:30pm!
Whether adult or child, avoid heavy sugary foods after 7pm. If you need a bedtime snack, aim to make it a small portion of healthy carbohydrate with protein, no more than 150-200 calories total. This type of bedtime snack is thought to help regulate the circadian cycle. A few examples of a healthy snack are:
- A slice of bread with a tablespoon of nut butter on it.
- A piece of fruit with a tablespoon of nut butter on it.
- ⅓ cup of mixed nuts with dried fruit.
- Half a cup of cereal with milk.
There are several supplements that can help calm the mind and body to help you and your little ones achieve the sleep that both you all need. Everything below can be used by both adults and children. Please consult your Naturopathic Doctor for appropriate dosages.
Glycine is an amino acid that has been one of my go tos for more than a decade. Glycine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter and so it works to help calm the nervous system when it’s running in overdrive.
L-Theanine is another amino acid that is found in tea leaves, specifically green tea. It helps the brain relax and gives you a more restful sleep. L-Theanine has been found to be particularly beneficial in improving sleep in children with ADHD.
Avena sativa. In homeopathic or tincture form, Avena sativa is a very gentle and calming herb to quiet the body from a day of overwork or overstimulation. Avenaforce, by A. Vogel, is a homeopathic preparation. It’s what is called a nerve tonic, so it’s supportive and gentle for the nervous system, helping calm and recharge the body.
Passion Flower is a plant often used as a botanical tincture to treat nervousness, insomnia and restless agitation and irritability. Also available by A. Vogel, it’s perfect for nights where no one can fall asleep from overstimulation. Also, for anyone suffering from generalized anxiety, it works just as well as some medications but without the side effects!