As a parent you will be all too familiar with the upset to family life when your child has had a bad night’s sleep. The tears and tantrums from your child and your own short patience if your own sleep was disrupted too. You can live with one day of this, but if your child falls into regular sleep issues it can have greater effects than a grumpy day.
1. Long Term Effects
The longer-term effects of frequent sleep deprivation in children can lead to difficulties in maintaining focus and poor performance if they are school age. Mental clarity can be affected, and behavioural problems can sometimes develop. Mornings can become a chore trying to get kids out of bed and moving. Sometimes sleep loss can result in over activity, but due to tiredness there is an increased risk of injury. In teens poor sleep can affect mood and lead to weight issues.
2. Sleep Behaviours
Having said this is it not uncommon for children to develop sleep issues at some time, with a number of different contributing factors. Children can start to develop bad sleep behaviours like stalling bed times at night using a number of different tactics, so they are always getting to sleep too late. If you manage to get them into bed kids can develop something called sleep onset association, which means they can’t get to sleep without a special thing (e.g teddy), a special person (e.g. mum) or a special activity. Sometimes children can also hop in and out of bed all night with excuses of things that are wrong or that they need. Changing these behaviours may require boundary setting or working with your child’s uncertainties. Relaxing bedtime routines can help, like baths before bedtimes with lavender or using calming aromatherapy in their rooms. Removing blue light emitting devices is a must and stop TV well before you would like kids to go to bed as it can be over stimulating. In the hours preceding bedtime try to avoid simple carbohydrates such as sugary foods or foods like crackers or bread. They are great for daytime energy, but not at night. Sometimes kids struggle to settle if they are over tired or have been wound up by the day. This is where relaxing herbs can be helpful to give to children, for example chamomile, lemon balm and linden all support bedtime calm and are suitable for children to take.
3. Nutrition Support
One other very common reason for children experiencing sleep issues, especially as they get older, is when they go through a growth spurt. This is because magnesium and calcium are essential for bone and joint development, but they are also very important to support sleep onset and maintenance. Children will often complain of tired legs or may find that when they get into bed, they are unable to get their legs to relax. At these times, supporting children or teens with key minerals that are required for growth can often be enough to achieve good sleep patterns again.
Another nutritional aspect to support children with healthy sleep patterns is protein, especially tryptophan. Proteins are essential for our body to make the sleep hormone melatonin, which is used by the body to maintain our sleep-wake cycles. So increasing tryptophan rich foods can be helpful such as dark green leafy vegetables, eggs, chicken, salmon, dairy products, nuts and seeds and bananas.
Clinicians Kids Peaceful Dreams contains Magnesium, vitamin B6, L-tryptophan, Lemon Balm and Linden, and is a natural formulation designed to support relaxation around bedtime and healthy sleep patterns in children.
Author: Jane Cronin, Naturopath and Medical Herbalist.
Jane is a qualified Naturopath and Medical Herbalist and is the senior product specialist with Clinicians.
Douglas Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Auckland. Always read the label and use only as directed. Vitamins and minerals are supplementary to and not a replacement for a balanced diet. Consult a health care professional if symptoms persist.