WHAT CAUSES SLEEP DISTURBANCES? Get Control Of Everyone’s Healthful Sleep – Part 2
We all know that sleep is important for health, so then understanding what causes sleep disturbances for our special people is another important way we can do a stellar job of caring for them. Once we get what the causes are behind sleep disturbances we can address two critical things; the importance of how to improve sleep hygiene and how to solve sleep problems.
Here is the point. Everyone’s normal sleep patterns are essentially the same. But what disrupts sleep for a normally developing child is amplified for special needs kiddos and youth. Brain chemistry is a part of the problem and can give us insight into how to solve sleep issues. What I’m saying here is ….what effects sleep for normally developing children is amplified for special needs kiddos.
So we have looked closely in Part 1 at the benefits of adding melatonin into the sleep routine. Today we will address the foundation for gaining restorative sleep for our little ones.
We should include:
- Correcting sleep hygiene
- Eliminating as much as possible their exposure to ‘blue-light’
- Improving nutritional access to the building blocks of melatonin
Let’s Look At Light
So, we know sunshine is important to our health, which goes without saying. Sunlight is a catalyst for making vitamin D among many other benefits. However, the last 125 years and with the invention of electricity, light exposures are increasingly disrupting the natural rhythms of sleep. Light that is emitting from the blue-wavelength in higher concentrations come from LCD screens, energy efficient LEDs and fluorescent light bulbs. So, you guessed it ‘screen time’ is and will have a negative impact on our little one’s sleep. Go figure, right!
Of course light isn’t all harmful. It depends on the timing and the degree of light exposure. Blue light actually has a beneficial effect during the daytime because it will boost alertness and reaction time (a good thing) and elevate moods (another good thing). But, in the nighttime it disrupts the circadian rhythm. The good news is that during daytime hours it will help maintain the circadian rhythm’s natural function.
So just to emphasize what we are saying here, there is scientific evidence that getting exposed to blue-spectrum light during the wrong time of day will suppress the release of melatonin. That is probably a big reason why sleep is difficult for so many. So, knowing what we know, then we can set up the best sleep circumstances for our children’s rest.
Setting the Stage for Sleep Hygiene
- Establish and stick to a specific bedtime each night
- Avoid large meals before bedtime
- Get our children up at the same time each morning
- Make sure the bedroom is only for sleeping
o Relaxing environment
o No computers, TVs, Tablets etc.
Food IS a Big Deal
Nutrition is an important aspect of establishing and maintaining health. And for many special needs children and youth it can be difficult to accomplish because of a compromised digestive system. If they are not correctly digesting their food then accessing the nutrition from the food they eat is compromised too. It will be worth you time to look more closely at this through the post on probiotics and digestive health. Even still, accessing foods high in the nutritional components that will give the body the ability to make and supply melatonin makes sense.
Food provides their bodies with tryptophan. AND tryptophan is an essential amino acid that the body converts to 5-HTP, then converting to serotonin which converts to the all-important Melatonin. If there isn’t enough access to tryptophan then there is poor conversion and production of melatonin. This is why melatonin supplements (Melatonin 1 mg Fast Dissolve, 90 Tablets, Natrol) offer such relief. But really, striving to get as close as possible to the natural process in our bodies is good practice. It’s overall better for health using a whole food nutritional approach.
What Do We Need to Remember?
Increase the body’s ability to access Tryptophan so the body can make the Melatonin it needs!
Use herbal teas:
- Catnip Tea; A mint family herb that drives our cats silly but effects humans like a sedative
a. 4 teaspoons of dried steeped in 2 cups of water for 10 minutes, drink up 30 minutes before getting them to bed. If you can get it fresh, fresh is better; use 4 tablespoons and steep for fresh.
- Chamomile Tea
a. 2 generous tablespoons of dry flowers steeped for 5-6 minutes with 4 cups of boiling water. Add lemon or honey, yum, very tasty!
3. Hops (no not beer but the beer kind of hops ), you put into a tea, steep it and serve it.
a.Steep like the chamomile but make it in the morning so it steeps all day, at least 6 hours in a covered container and drink a half hour before bedtime.)
4. St. John’s Wort (not recommended for the very, very young)
a. 2 teaspoons of the dried top of the plant and flowers steeped 10 minutes in 1 cup of boiling water, strained and drink an hour before bed
Use foods high in Tryptophan:
Like CHEERIES (A surprising resource for allot of tryptophan. Make it a juice or the fruit)
Magnesium, like BANANAS (Will powerfully calm the central nervous system inducing a more relaxed feeling and therefore, supports efforts to get to sleep. Also high in tryptophan and potassium which are good for muscle relaxation)
Carbohydrates, (Just a small snack like a cereal bar 15 minutes or so before bed. It helps to smooth the way for the tryptophan to get across the blood-brain barrier by diverting the larger amino-acids to the muscles so the tryptophan gains easier access.)
What’s a Good Mom or Dad to Do
Needless to say sleep is critically important for both mom, dad, AND our special needs kiddos. Another really important point I want to help you look at is this: While in the past the medical world viewed chronic inability to sleep as just insomnia, today it is recognized that there are at least 17 sleep disorders. What that tells me is that we should make sure that you and your child are not dealing with a sleep disorder! Some of these include sleep apnea, narcolepsy, a periodic limb movement disorder, or restless leg syndrome, all of which totally disrupt sleep.
I hope you have found this information helpful.
Remember, you can effect sleep for the better by doing the following: take care of the conditions for sleep by managing ‘sleep hygiene’, reduce exposure to light from the blue-light spectrum emitting from tablet screens and TVs, and improve the body’s access to Tryptophan so the body can make an adequate natural supply of melatonin.
Have you been fussing with sleep, too? It has been a HUGE problem in our house. Thankfully it has gotten so much better by putting in place many of these suggestions. Let me know which one works for you!
What do you think? Our kids are electronically hooked so is reducing access to light from the blue spectrum a key to them getting better sleep?
Do you have something more personal you want to run by me…