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If you struggle to get your kids to sleep at night, then be reassured you’re not alone!  Sleep trouble isn’t just a problem among adults, kids often have trouble switching off too, and they usually keep their parents up with them! So, we’ve pulled together our top tips for a restful night for the whole family.

1. Bath Time

A relaxing bath is a great start to the bedtime routine. If your little one gets stressed, adding a couple of cups of Epsom salts may help your little one to chill out as Magnesium may help reduce restlessness, irritability, lack of concentration, sleep disorders and depression in the long term. Make sure you explain why you are putting it in, as creating an expectation could help bring the effect forward: “I’m putting this special salt into your bath which will probably make you a bit more sleepy later.”

2. Calming Drinks

After dinner why not try out one of these natural drinks which can help your child’s body relax:

3. Omega 3 Support

Omega-3 fatty acids, as we know, are linked to numerous health benefits but now, a new study suggests that having higher levels of omega-3 DHA is associated with better sleep and fewer sleep disturbances among children. So try out a daily Omega 3 supplement to see if it makes a difference with your little one. Dr Alex Richardson, who was one of the authors of this recent study, has also written a fantastic book called ‘They Are What You Feed Them‘ which I can highly recommend. A Senior Research Fellow at Oxford University, Dr Richardson is the UK’s leading authority on how nutrition affects behaviour and learning and this book exposes the truth behind the food we are feeding our children and offers simple, practical solutions all parents can use.

4. Screen Time Out

We all know that TV just before bed doesn’t help to calm small minds, however did you know that its advisable to turn all screens off 60-90 minutes before bedtime? This includes not just the TV, but the computer, games, iPad and any other devices with screens. Study results show that they all promote wakefulness through both stimulating content as well as the light emitted from them which mimics daylight and tricks your child’s brain into thinking it needs to stay awake. Some devices with Apple True Tone or Night Shift are able to adjust their colour temperature to match ambient light or the time of day, and this can help too. Entertain your kids by reading them stories or find an audio book or gentle music for them to listen to before bed time.

5. Avoid the Highs

It is well known that caffeine (including chocolate) is a stimulant and not very good for children anyway, but it’s key that we also avoid giving kids sugar in the evening as well. If you do allow your child the occasional soft drink, make sure that they don’t have any drinks containing sugar and caffeine within 3 hours of bedtime.

Snacks are perfectly acceptable before bedtime as long as they’re healthy and not very filling. If your child asks for a food or drink before bedtime offer a glass of warm milk or a light healthy snack such as fruit with nut butter or crackers with houmous.

6. Create a Calming Environment

Trying to encourage your kids to wind down before bedtime can be pretty stressful in itself! So try to reduce stress levels well before bedtime. Cortisol, known as the ‘stress hormone’ plays a key role in sleep. Your child’s body won’t be able to slow down and go to sleep if cortisol levels are high. So (as much as is possible!) keep activities before bedtime calm – like reading a book, keep the lights dim and the environment quiet. This can really help avoid excess levels of cortisol in your child’s system, thereby helping them to wind down.

Bonus: Intolerances & Sleep Disorders

If you suspect your child has a food intolerance this could also be affecting their sleep patterns. Studies have shown, for example, that there is a relationship between having an allergy to cows’ milk and chronic sleeplessness in children. For a child with food intolerances, striking differences in sleep quality were seen once milk was excluded from their diet. If you think this may be a problem for your child, do get in touch with a practitioner to assess your child and arrange testing.

If, despite your best efforts, your child continues to have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or has persistent nightmares or night terrors, they might have a genuine sleep disorder. The most frequent of sleep disorders in children are repeated and prolonged periods awake. Treatment of insomniac children rests on behavioural techniques – there a number of ways to understand and observe the sleep-wake rhythm of your child and teach them to acquire regular sleeping habits so do speak with a paediatrician if you are concerned.

We completely understand that bedtime can become a battle when little bodies resist the urge to snuggle down to bed, but hopefully here we’ve given you some tips to try out with your troops. Best of luck in your quest for a rested family bedtime, and remember not to reward a restless child with too much attention if they get out of bed!



Lucinda Recommends:

Westlab Epsom Bath Salts

Bare Biology Super Hero Fish Oil

Pukka Night Time Organic Tea


References:

Long-term HRV analysis shows stress reduction by magnesium intake.

Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality.

Strategies of functional foods promote sleep in human beings.

The impact of light from computer monitors on melatonin levels in college students.

The child insomniac.

Sleep characteristics in milk-intolerant infants.

Fatty acids and sleep in UK children: subjective and pilot objective sleep results from the DOLAB study – a randomized controlled trial.

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