Parents who have children who are sleep deprived are often left wondering what is keeping their child from falling asleep, and sleeping well through the night. Here are five enemies of sleep that might be keeping your little one up at night:
1. Electronic devices: Televisions, tablet devices and smart phones all emit blue light when turned on. The problem is that blue light has been shown to halt melatonin production, which makes falling and staying asleep more difficult. If your child is watching TV, playing on an iPad or smart phone prior to bed, this might be a reason why falling asleep is tough for them! It is advisable to turn these devices off 1-2 hours prior to bed, to give your child’s body time to start producing melatonin for sleep.
2. Lack of physical activity: Exercise strengthens your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s internal clock to know when it is day and night. Physical also helps improve alertness during the daytime and falling asleep at night. Just 20 minutes of physical activity daily has been shown to help the brain – so make sure to get your child out of the house and doing walking, running, hiking, or physical games or play for at least 20 minutes daily. Sleep experts say it’s best to do this exercise at least 3 hours prior to bedtime, so it is best to do it in the morning or afternoon.
3. Dinner time: Eating dinner briefly before going to bed has been demonstrated to be bad both for digestion and sleeping. It likely limits our body to fully absorb the important nutrients in our food. Also, for any child who has acid reflux, eating late can worsen the reflux they are having at night. Reflux has shown to increase insomnia and other sleep disorders. If we eat a large dinner then lay down, it makes it more likely for the acid to leak out of the stomach and into the esophagus, creating the uncomfortable sensations that come with reflux. It takes 3 hours for food to empty from the stomach, so it would be wise to feed your child dinner 2-3 hours prior to bedtime, then hold on food until the go to sleep.
4. Diet: Everyone knows that caffeine is bad for sleep. However, often parents forget that certain foods and drinks have caffeine, like chocolate and sodas. Giving these to children can be poor for sleep. Very acidic foods can also be problematic for babies and young children, as they can cause reflux. Eats, fruit juices, grains, dairy, salty snacks and sugary sweets can all cause reflux and make it harder for your child to sleep.
5. Pushing back bedtime: Parents often think, “If I put off bed time an hour or two, my child will fall asleep faster and sleep better.” Unfortunately, this is far from the case. For your child’s circadian rhythm, it’s best to have a consistent bedtime and bedtime routine. Pushing your child’s bedtime could not only be bad for his sleep tonight, but also the next night. Choose a good bedtime for your child, and stick to that routine. Create a bedtime routine that starts 30 minutes prior to bed that starts to get him or her ready for sleep.
Just these few changes can help you take the steps in the right direction for a better quality, and longer night's sleep for your little one.