What To Do About SNOOOZZZZZ-less Children

This article is for general information only and is not intended to replace consultation and treatment by a competent licensed healthcare professional. Therefore, the discussion of Medical diagnoses is beyond the scope of this article, and talking with your healthcare provider is strongly recommended before starting any supplements or remedies.

Adequate sleep is essential for physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being. Yet, sometimes children don’t get restful sleep, sleep they need perhaps even more than adults. Since a child who doesn’t sleep can make her parents frantic, let’s get comfy and look at the importance of sleep for children, including the recommended amount of sleep for different age groups, the effects of insufficient sleep on physical, emotional, and psychological health, and some situations and habits that can contribute to sleep disturbances in children. We will also look at what parents and caregivers can do to promote healthy sleep habits in children and provide suggestions for safe sleep aids for children when help is needed.

Why children need sleep

Physical Health

Periods of deep, uninterrupted sleep and dreaming are essential for ourhealth and well-being. Sleep can significantly affect a child’s physical health. It is also critical for physical growth(1). Insufficient sleep has been linked to many adverse outcomes, including obesity, impaired academic performance, high blood pressure, and diabetes. In addition, sleep disturbances, such as sleep apnea, increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Mental Health

Sleep is required for emotional regulation and cognitive development. Insufficient sleep can lead to irritability, mood swings, and behavioral problems. In addition, sleep disturbances have been linked to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Sleep is also critical for cognitive functioning. Insufficient sleep can make it difficult for us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and perform multiple tasks effectively. Trouble in these areas can have significant negative consequences for academic performance, achievement, self-concept, and self-esteem.

Despite the importance of sleep, and every parent’s desire to keep their children happy, many children do not get enough sleep. In fact, research shows that at some point, 50 to 60% of children in Westernized countries experience difficulties falling or staying asleep (2).

Sleep needs change as a child gets older. Infants sleep most of the day whle teens need about half as many hours. Compare the recommendations below:

  • infants (0–3 months): 14–17 hours, including naps
  • infants (4–12 months: 12–16 hours, including naps
  • toddlers (1–2 years): 11–14 hours, including naps
  • preschool (3–5 years): 10–13 hours, including naps
  • school-age (6–13 years): 9–12 hours
  • teens (14–17 years): 8–10 hours (3)

By the time most kids reach 6 years old, they no longer need naps. After the age of 6, it is expected that the child will get all the sleep they need at night. If they still need a nap, it may be a sign that they should go to bed earlier so they can get the recommended amount of sleep all in one go.

Causes of sleep problems

Sleep experts divide childhood insomnia into 3 categories: chronic insomnia disorder, short-term insomnia disorder, and other insomnia disorders. (4)

Several factors contribute to sleep disturbances in children, including medical issues, such as medication side effects, pain, primary sleep disorders (e.g., asthma, obstructive sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome), and fear (of being alone, the dark, monsters, etc.). In addition, environmental conditions such as safety, noise, light, and lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise also contribute to sleep habits.

It is important to note that parents and caregivers play a critical role in promoting healthy sleep habits in children. When Parents and caregivers are unwilling or unable to set consistent bedtime rules and routines, they can inadvertently create sleep disturbances in the child (4).

Here are 10 tips to help kids fall asleep and stay asleep.

10 tips for children to get a good night’s sleep

  1. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule. Children should go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  2. Create a sleep-conducive environment. A quiet, dark, and cool room can help children fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
  3. If the child needs a night light, use one with pink tones, like a pink salt crystal lamp. These lamps mimic the tones of the sky at sunset and signal the body that it is time for rest.
  4. Avoid bright lights and stop screen time 1-2 hours before bed. A study published in 2022 showed bright lights, even one hour before a child’s bedtime, reduced melatonin production by up to 90%, making it more difficult for the child to fall asleep (5)
  5. Develop a relaxing bedtime routine. Engage in calming activities such as reading or taking a warm bath before bedtime to help children wind down and relax. Backrubs and lavender essential oil diffused into the air can help calm the mind and body and signal sleep.
  6. Avoid caffeine and sugary foods as much as possible. Caffeine and sugar can interfere with sleep, so it’s best to skip these foods and drinks in the hours leading up to bedtime.
  7. Ensure adequate physical activity during the day. Regular physical activity uses energy and decreases stress hormones in the body, which can help children fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly.
  8. Address any medical conditions that may interfere with sleep. If your child has a medical condition such as eczema, sleep apnea or asthma, it’s essential to address these conditions for their overall health and to ensure a good night’s sleep.
  9. Avoid napping too close to bedtime. While a quick snooze can be beneficial, it’s important not to nap too much during the day, as this can interfere with nighttime sleep.
  10. Do what you can to keep the bedroom as a sleep-only space. Children should associate the bedroom with sleep, so it’s best to avoid using it as a place for other activities, such as playing or doing homework, if possible.
  11. Model good sleep habits: As a parent or caregiver, it’s essential to model good sleep habits, such as sticking to a consistent sleep schedule and creating a relaxing bedtime routine.

 What can I feed my child to make her sleep well at night?

While certain foods can help promote sleep, keep in mind that a balanced and healthy diet is one of the best ways to support your child’s sleep and overall health. Here are some foods that can help promote sleep in children:

  1. Complex carbohydrates: Foods such as whole plums, potatoes, bananas, and wild rice can help promote sleep by increasing the production of serotonin, a hormone that promotes relaxation and calmness (6).
  2. Foods that provide melatonin. Tart cherries, rice oats, and nuts, can help stabilize blood sugar levels and promote the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
  3. Magnesium-rich foods: Foods such as spinach, almonds, and avocado contain magnesium, which can help promote relaxation and sleep.

It’s also wise to avoid foods that can interfere with sleep, such as caffeine, sugary and processed foods, and heavy, fatty meals. Additionally, it’s best to avoid feeding your child a large meal close to bedtime, as this can interfere with sleep.

Herbal teas to help children sleep

While some herbal teas may help promote sleep in children, it’s important to remember that not all herbal teas are safe for children to consume. Some herbal teas are generally considered safe for children and may help promote sleep. They can be built into the bedtime routine to signal the active time of day is ending, and bedtime is approaching. Generally, teas for children should be 1/3 to 1/2 the adult dose strength.

  1. Chamomile tea: Chamomile is a mild sedative that can help promote relaxation and calmness. Chamomile tea is safe for children to drink and may help promote sleep.
  2. Lemon balm tea: Lemon balm is a mild sedative herb that may help promote relaxation and sleep. Lemon balm tea is safe for children to drink and can be combined with other sleep-promoting herbs, such as chamomile.
  3. Valerian root tea: Valerian root is a herb commonly used to promote sleep. While valerian root tea is generally considered safe for children, it should be used cautiously as it can cause drowsiness and may interact with certain medications (7).
  4. Passionflower tea: Passionflower is a herb with a mild sedative effect and may help promote relaxation and sleep. Passionflower tea is generally considered safe for children to drink.

Many children benefit from homeopathic remedies. Hyland’s 4 Kids Calm’n Restful Sleep Aid Tablets and Hyland’s Calms Forte Sleep Aid Quick Dissolving Tablets have been used for generations with positive results.

It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before giving your child any herbal teas, tinctures or homeopathic remedies, as some preparations may interact with certain medications or may not be safe for children with certain medical conditions. Additionally, it’s important to monitor your child’s intake of herbal teas and to avoid giving them too much, as some herbs can have a strong effect and may cause side effects if consumed in large amounts.

Adequate sleep for children is essential! 

Sleep is a uniquely important component of children’s health and development. Parents and caregivers play a critical role in promoting healthy sleep habits in children, with both conscientious food selection and bedtime ritual creation being of utmost importance.

  • Dawkins, R. (2018, March 12). The Importance of Sleep for Kids – Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. Www.hopkinsallchildrens.org. https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/ACH-News/General-News/The-importance-of-sleep-for-kids#:~:text=Why%20is%20a%20good%20night
  • Fricke-Oerkermann, L., Plück, J., Schredl, M., Heinz, K., Mitschke, A., Wiater, A., & Lehmkuhl, G. (2007). Prevalence and Course of Sleep Problems in Childhood. Sleep30(10), 1371–1377. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2266270/
  • Kids and Sleep (for Parents) – Nemours KidsHealth. (n.d.). Kidshealth.org. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/sleep.html#:~:text=toddlers%20(1%E2%80%932%20years)%3A
  • UpToDate. (n.d.). Www.uptodate.com. Retrieved February 27, 2023, from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/behavioral-sleep-problems-in-children#:~:text=Intrinsic%20factors%20that%20predispose%20or
  • Even minor exposure to light before bedtime may disrupt a preschooler’s sleep. (2022, January 25). CU Boulder Today. https://www.colorado.edu/today/2022/01/25/even-minor-exposure-light-bedtime-may-disrupt-preschoolers-sleep
  • Briguglio, M., Dell’Osso, B., Panzica, G., Malgaroli, A., Banfi, G., Zanaboni Dina, C., Galentino, R., & Porta, M. (2018). Dietary Neurotransmitters: A Narrative Review on Current Knowledge. Nutrients10(5), 591. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10050591
  • Herbs are helpful, but use with caution in children. (n.d.). Contemporary Pediatrics. Retrieved February 27, 2023, from https://www.contemporarypediatrics.com/view/herbs-are-helpful-use-caution-children‌

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