WHAT CAUSES SLEEP DISTURBANCES? Get Control Of Everyone’s Healthful Sleep – Part 2

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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.

What Causes Sleep Disturbances

Peaceful Sleep
by Magnus Manske

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!

What Causes Sleep Disturbances?

Screen Time Is Time Exposed to Blue-Spectrum Light that Disturbs Sleep


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.



What Causes Sleep Disturbances?

How Wonderful the Peaceful Sleep of a Child!

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 Quiet
o Dark
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!

What Helps?

Use herbal teas:

  1. Catnip Tea; A mint family herb that drives our cats silly but effects humans like a sedative
    CATNIP makes for crazy silly cats and is calming to people. Who would have knows?

    CATNIP makes for crazy silly cats and is calming to people. Who would have known?


    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.


  2. 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)

What Causes Sleep Disturbances?

Cherries are rich in tryptophan!

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)

What Causes Sleep Disturbances?

Bananas too, besides the magnesium and potassium.

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 Causes Sleep Disturbances?

Highland barley bars – just a little carb before bed goes a long way

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!

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.

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…

Contact Me Here!

12 Responses to “WHAT CAUSES SLEEP DISTURBANCES? Get Control Of Everyone’s Healthful Sleep – Part 2

  • This is very interesting information. I have had sleep problems since my daughter was born and she is now over 30 years old. When she was a baby and toddler she always woke up during the night and would not settle.

    The information you give here is excellent for helping to get all little ones, not just special needs children, to get the sleep they need.

    • Linda

      Yes, I certainly agree, Christine. The recommendations here can be used by all parents and their children. It’s particularly difficult if a special needs child suffers from interrupted sleep or struggles to even get to sleep as my daughter does. For everyone alike the foundation for good health is making sure our nutrition is getting where its needed.

      Let me know if any of these suggestions help with some of the sleep challenges you are facing. You may want to check out Part 1 of this two-part series http://specialneedsadvocatepower.com/tips-on-how-t…. In it I discuss melatonin and how it can help you. Its been a wonderful help to me and my little one.


  • Wow Linda!
    I’m so surprised with your website. It’s amazing! Congrats!
    Well, I have to read and “re-read” your post so many times because its importance. What you said here is a VERY issue nowadays. I have 3 little ones that give us a hard time at sleep time. We are doing better, step by step, but you know, after vacation it’s time to get back on track and it’s not easy. I’ve heard about the blue light, but the tryptophan is new for me. Thank you for share your knowledge!

    • Linda

      Hello Lana,

      I am certainly happy that you have found value in my article on what causes sleep disturbances. With school starting up in many places around the world, getting everyone back into a routine is important and can be a challenge, after all who doesn’t like to have a few extra hours to play or just do what one loves. I hope you are smoothly transitioning back to your family’s schedule, now.

      It is pretty interesting the tryptophan connection. And I love that we can increase certain foods or use a simple carbohydrate snack, not allot, to help the brain more easily receive the benefit of tryptophan that is turned into melatonin.

      I hope you will share this with others in your circle who have young children too. And that you will come back for a visit. I’m working on a blog regarding ADHD that will be published soon.


  • Hi!

    Actually, I have always believed that blue light spectrum affects us in a relaxing way and stimulates sleep, regardless of the source and time of the day. That´s simly because I have always been hearing such claims. I don`t know what the circadian rhythm is but I will look it up.
    Good article!


    • Linda

      Hello Igor,

      In the research I have been doing, my sources have made the point that blue-light emissions are indeed healthy and can even help with the sleep/wake cycle….as long as this light is accessed during daylight hours. Now that is NOT true of fluorescent lighting. There is a growing body of evidence that fluorescent lights can be very agitating and it doesn’t matter what time of day it is.

      The point, here is that blue-light exposure during night time hours, after the sun has gone down and one is nearing their normal time for restful sleep, is disruptive to the rhythm of a natural sleep cycle. And of course, related to this is the fact that some young people and adults are in front of a screen doing mentally challenging activities, which of course also keeps the brain in ‘fast-forward’. Or maybe in front of a TV or computer/tablet watching an emotionally charged show. All of these things affect the ability to get into a calm state of mind that will facilitate sleep.

      Of course if you have a reference to the claims you have read, I am very interested in seeing them and reading them. I hope you will come back and share those with us and I will dig down further and share my findings.

      Thank you very much for your comment.


  • The website looks great, and there’s a ton of useful information in this series. I think that whether or not you have a special needs child in your family, you can use the information included here to help you and your loved ones get more rest. I especially agree about the importance of food in this equation. Thank you for the great post!

    • Linda

      Thank you very much, David, for your feedback. It’s always good to know that the appearance of what I am creating is being well received.

      This info is good for anyone, eh? Glad you think so and I agree! Restful slumber is a ridiculous problem with whole industries and clinics growing up around what has become a pervasive problem for our society. I mean, for goodness sakes, getting sleep shouldn’t be so hard, right? In time I hope this will do a good job of reaching out to others and supporting them. Thanks for dropping in and for your comment!

  • Sleep is essential and it only takes a small disruption of our sleep to effect our health and well being.

    I was an Army intelligence officer in the 1980’s. During this time I went through training that deprived me of sleep. Usually I was allowed to sleep only two hours a night.

    Within a day my judgement was severely impaired.
    Within a week, I began hallucinating. Some of the hallucinations were so real, I remember them to this day as though they actually happened.

    I appreciate your tea recipes to help sleep. I’m a big fan of St. John’s Wort. It also helps me with anxiety.

    • Linda

      Hello Mr. Horton,

      Your comment is most appreciated. It is candid and salient to the seriousness of ensuring we receive sleep that will be restorative. You have lived a lifetime through and through already with the time you spent in the military. I often have wondered about how much rest the armed forces get, not much I’m sure when in the heat of a campaign. I also have related this to the needs of interns and doctors who may not be correctly rested when going into surgery, of course not a good foundation for success in that situation either.

      I am glad that my tea suggestion makes sense for you. I sincerely hope one of them makes a difference in accessing blissful sleep.

      Let me know if they end up serving your needs and if there is anything else I might do to support you.


  • A very interesting article! I’ve figured out that a TV show before bed isn’t the best idea for the kids I’m taking care of (three kids between 3 and 8 years old). I’m reading a book for the kids instead, and as you said, trying to have a quiet and dark environment in their bedrooms. Thank you for sharing this!

    • Linda

      It does make such a big difference to quiet things down. Our brains and circadian rhythms do better as we slow things down and get things dark so sleep can set in. I love that you are choosing to read to the kid, that is powerfully good in many ways.

      Glad this made sense and hope it is helping!


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