Tips On How To Improve Sleep – You Both Deserve It! – Part 1

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Part 1 – Tips On How To Improve Sleep

Nothing is more disheartening than to desperately need tips on how to improve sleep.   Being in a perpetual state of fatigue is no way to live because both you and your special person haven’t gotten enough ‘shut-eye’.   And struggling through each day because the night before your little one just would NOT go to sleep, or woke up in the wee hours, like 2 or 3 or 4 am in the morning, and then you couldn’t get back to sleep, that’s miserable.   Sound familiar?

Tips On How To Improve Sleep - You Both Deserve It!

Sleep IS Critically Important

Sleep is so important that it can and does affect the way we act.  That’s no surprise.  A child with special needs, whether they are ADHD, autistic, facing the challenges of a chromosome disorder, epilepsy, or cerebral palsy, will ‘act out’, yup, they’ll be more likely to ‘melt-down’ if they are not rested.  Goodness, this is true for all of us, right?  My point…it becomes an escalated issue for our special needs kids and youth.   One that affects how they are with other people and what they might be able to digest in their school environments.  And to punctuate this serious concern, there is ample proof that the immune system also takes a negative hit when a child isn’t rested.  Who wants more potential for getting sick?  Nobody right?

Tips On How To Improve Sleep

Lack of Sleep Can Have Serious Health Effects

As more and more is uncovered in research what is surfacing is that sleeplessness can be attributed to

  • Neurological
  • Behavioral, and
  • Medical causes

And YES there does appear to be brain system abnormalities that are affecting sleep regulation and, therefore, are likely behind our children’s sleep problems.  No wonder our loved ones have such a hard time getting to sleep, or staying asleep!   In fact, there is increasing evidence in research literature that chronic sleep disorders in children on the spectrum are associated with disturbed secretion of melatonin.  Then if you plug in the medical challenges, like seizures or an acid reflux/gastrointestinal disorder, well, yeah, sleep will be all messed up.  Doesn’t your GERD make a mess of your hours of sleep, too?

And apparently, sleeplessness affects up to 83% of ASD children so that they struggle through their day on less than desirable sleep.  So I’m not alone and neither are you.  We both are trying to find solutions to the sleep rhythms in our households because the way it is just shouldn’t be.  I love seeing my baby girl in deep peaceful sleep and I’m guessing you like to see the same thing.

Tips On How To Improve Sleep

Sweet Sleep…how calm and peaceful our little ones are when asleep.

What is not surprising is that children who aren’t sleeping well can be

  • more aggressive in social exchanges
  • may have more problems with processing instructions, listening, and learning
  • may get sick more easily
  • may more readily ‘melt-down’
  • may become more easily over-stimulated

There are three things (sleep-related behaviors, the sleep-wake cycles, and anxiety-related behaviors) that are still under science scrutiny because it appears to be related to the lack of quality sleep.  So, here is an interesting thought that has surfaced from these studies (Johnson 1996, Patchold et. Al 1998, Richdale et all 1999, Schereck, Mulick & Smith 2004):

Some of the symptoms that are characteristic to autism could be attributed to poor sleep.

Overstimulated? Yes!

Overstimulated? Yes!

Too Tired to Keep Awake

Too Tired to Keep Awake

Emotion? Lots of that going on all day wears a person out, right?

Emotion? Lots of that going on all day wears a person out, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

HMMM.  They are still working on this connection.  But really, as a parent, don’t you feel like you already have the answer to this one?  I do.  I know when her night’s rest has been fairly good she just doesn’t have the melt-downs as much.  That says allot!

What’s a Good Dad and Mom Supposed to Do

Let’s discuss how to improve the quality of sleep for you and your little one.   First set the foundation by eating clean foods, exercising, having regular bowel movements, and staying adequately hydrated.  You will feel more balanced and of course so will your special person, and who wouldn’t want that?  Our kids will be better able to tackle their world when they are rested.  We want this for them!  We want them to learn what it means to get adequate sleep and to use good ‘sleep hygiene’ so they can experience being well-rested in the here and now AND when they are older.

Here Is What Works

Tips On How To Improve Sleep

It begins with the setting sun. Darkness sets in and melatonin should begin to release, then after midnight gradually lessen.

In Part 2 I am going to drill down on the importance of

  • sleep hygiene
  • “screen time”
  • natural things like food and tea

as these will help facilitate sleep.   You may remember that in days gone by it was a custom to warm up some milk and drink that.  I’m going to discuss why this worked in my post addressing natural solutions for solving sleep problems.

 

 

Our Pediatric Developmental Physician (PDP) recommended, not a pharmaceutical, but a natural Melatonin supplement! (Melatonin 2.5mg Sublingual Orange 120 tabs from Source Naturals) This is a brain hormone that is generated and secreted in the brain from the pineal gland.   It is closely related to our circadian rhythm, you can say it is synchronized with the cyclical function of our body’s access to the sleep it is accustomed to.  As soon as it gets dark outside melatonin begins to release into the brain, peaking in the middle of the night, then, gradually falling off during the second half of our night’s slumber.

I can see now why if the brain’s structure is compromised how the access to brain hormones would be too.

Fast Dissolve Tabs

Fast Dissolve Tabs

Gummy Chewables

Gummy Chewables

Time- release Tabs

Time- release Tabs

What does melatonin do?

Well, it prohibits the body’s wakefulness system from functioning and therefore actually induces sleep in us.  Now that’s pretty cool.  But if there are structural brain issues, like in Rett and Angel syndrome, microcephaly and Epilepsy, then apparently the poor melatonin release creates highly disturbed sleep patterns.

 

What research is helping us understand is that melatonin has significant bearing on sleep architecture!

Knowing this, and knowing that melatonin is not a prescription drug is really good news!  It can be purchased in about any Walgreen’s, Costco, or Walmart.  So it’s pretty available.  We use the brand Natrol at 5 mg per chewable tablet ( and as pictured above.  Now the next thing is how do we determine what is the right amount to give?  And when do we introduce it into our little one’s routine?

Please, Please, PLEASE

Be sure to consult you and your child’s physician when considering adding this supplement into your daily routine.   It’s always the right thing to do.  And….

This is especially important if your child is on prescribed medications.

Based on the studies I have read I am going to offer you this suggestion.  First, if you can, see if their body will convert melatonin from foods high in tryptophan.  I have just begun to explore whether my little one’s body will take up the nutrient and do the job it’s supposed to.   As you know from previous posts, I much prefer the nutritional route.  However, the fact is I also know that melatonin works for us!

My daughter hears everything, and if I don’t have her bedroom dark and the noise in the house controlled, she stays in sensory overload and just isn’t been able to go to sleep.  Toss and toss and turn and turn, she could have made pounds of butter from her restlessness when trying to go to sleep.  With the introduction of doctor recommended melatonin I have been happy to see my baby girl, (not a baby anymore she is 6) calmly go to sleep.   This is AWESOME!

Most of the studies do not report adverse side effects and it does not appear that the body develops a tolerance for the Melatonin.  However, in a few studies this has been noted:

  • Blood sugar levels increase which of course would be an issue if your child has a diabetic condition
  • There is some evidence that it can affect blood pressure
  • There is some evidence that it can effect depression

THIS is why I prefer the nutritional route over pharmaceuticals!  Even though Melatonin is a natural supplement, cover your bases and speak with your doctor when considering adding it to your child’s evening routine.

We have been using Melatonin  for almost a year now and I am NOT seeing any negative side effects.  In fact its been wonderful to help ease the stress out of her evening routine.  What I am considering doing, however, while I work with the nutritional aspect, is to start with a low dose that is a Fast Release (FR) Melatonin 1 mg Fast Dissolve, 90 Tablets, Natrol  and also give her one that is a Controlled Release (CR) because of her early morning wakefulness.  It could be that the controlled release will help her sleep through the night.  When she wakes up between 2 and 4 am she often can’t get back to sleep and even 4 o’clock is too early, even for an early riser like me. I’m going to see if this approach helps. I’ll let you know if it does.

What Dose and When

Doses range from 0.5 to 10 mg taken at the time we want our little ones to go to sleep.    Start with low doses.  Our PDP recommended 3 mg.  Sometimes I find she is still fidgeting and unable to go to sleep.  Looking at all reasons why; is there still noise in the house, is she hurting, is her hair put up, are the covers binding her, and when after getting these factors under control then I will increase by a few more milligrams.  That always works.

Tips On How To Improve Sleep

Car rides used to be my only saving grace…now she more easily falls asleep because of our good experience with Melatonin.

What we now know is that the brain’s structure does have a bearing on getting sleep.   Doctors are recommending Melatonin because it appears that the mechanisms for initiating sleep are compromised so there is poor melatonin release resulting in disturbed sleep patterns.

Will you be trying Melatonin?  Please let us know how it goes!  It has worked well for us.  Melatonin 5 mg Fast Dissolve, Strawberry Flavor, 250 Tablets, Natrol  from: VitaSprings.com

What is working for you?  Have you any experience using Melatonin?  Please share these with us so we can all benefit from your learning curve too.

Drop Us a Comment! Or Share Your Story. We Will All Benefit From Your Generosity.

Drop Us a Comment! Or Share Your Story. We Will All Benefit From Your Generosity.

 

3 Responses to “Tips On How To Improve Sleep – You Both Deserve It! – Part 1

  • Linda

    Nothing is worse than pushing through the day in a constant state of exhaustion because YOU didn’t sleep well. Not being rested only sets us up for a host of problems up to and including lacking the patience we need with our little ones. I hope this information helps you.

  • Nice article. I definitely need these tips. I struggle to sleep a lot of times. Thanks for sharing!

    • Linda

      You’ve probably guessed, I do too. Getting to sleep isn’t my problem, its getting back to sleep after being awakened for whatever silly reason. Gald to hear this may be helpful for you.

      Linda

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