Thoughtful Parenting: 6 ways to get your kids to sleep
June 17, 2018
Ever had that moment where you are like "time to get out the Benadryl again" because your kid refuses to go to sleep? You are not alone. Twenty to 30 percent of young children in the U.S. experience sleep problems. As parents, we need to start exploring the reasons our kids are not falling or staying asleep so we do not result to drugging our kids because it certainly is not fixing the problem, just putting a bandage on it.
Sleep is a time of mental and physical restoration. No sleep means no restoration of our nerves and all cells in our body. Sleep is so pivotal in children's lives; it affects their schooling, relationships, focus, health, mood and more. If a child is not getting the appropriate sleep they need then we start to see symptoms such as poor school performance, emotional irregularities, more frequent illnesses and poor recovery, and even poor growth.
Lack of sleep in childhood is linked to cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, depression, anxiety, cancer and more in adulthood so what we do now for our kids is only going to make their lives, and our lives, that much easier in the future.
The following are six things each family should start exploring and discussing to really figure out why our kids are not getting to sleep.
- Routine: This is No. 1 on your list. Kids thrive off of routine and if you are not consistent with it, their sleep will not be consistent. Eat dinner, do bath time, brush teeth and read books at the same time each night. When our kids and their bodies understand the routine, they are less likely to be resistant.
- Diet: Dinners should be at least two hours before lights out and packed full of nutrients so they can have that time to digest their food and get good sleep through the night.
- Nutrition: Avoid high carbohydrate meals such as pasta, bread and sweets. When we are feeding them sugar, expect a sugar rush and crash. If your child is a picky eater or is going through a "I only eat yellow things" consider a multivitamin with B vitamins. B vitamins are needed for the synthesis of serotonin and melatonin — hormones we naturally produce that help us sleep.
- Screens, tablets, video games: Screens, tablets and video games should not be used at least one hour before bedtime, or not at all. Screens are stimulating due to their blue light causing the brain to decrease serotonin and melatonin production and are addictive. Children experience a withdrawal after screen use, just as if you were coming off of a sugar or drug high, which is not ideal for bedtime or sleep.
- Bedroom: No screens, TVs or stimulating toys should be allowed in the bedroom. The temperature should be cool and there should be only gentle light allowed.
- Exercise/outside time: Kids are never getting enough outside time, especially our school-aged children. Start to incorporate about 30 minutes of outside time right when you get home or right after dinner.
- Other things to consider exploring: food allergies, hormone testing, other vitamin/mineral deficiency.
As you start to make some of these changes, stay firm with your decision and statements to your kids: If you say this is the last time you go into their room, you need to stand your ground and mean what you say. Making changes are hard but in the end, these changes we make for our kids now will only help them become more successful individuals later in life.
Dr. Meghan Holpuch at Sumovia Naturopathic Healthcare is a registered naturopathic doctor in the state of Colorado, but more importantly an educator and an advocate for your health. Naturopathic Medicine is a form of medicine that takes a comprehensive approach to your health by taking into account your physical, mental and emotional health and finding the root cause of your ailments. Holpuch is about treating the cause and using preventative and lifestyle medicine to get you from sickness to wellness. Holpuch's practice focuses on pediatric and family medicine as well as chronic illness treatment and prevention. Visit sumovia.com for more information about Holpuch and how to become a patient.