It can often be hard to pin-point what is keeping a child with special needs from falling asleep, and sleeping well through the night. For parents who are children are chronically sleep deprived, here are five “sleep enemies” that might be keeping your little one up at night:
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 at least 1 hour prior to bed, to give your child’s body time to start producing melatonin for sleep.
Lack of physical activity
Exercise strengthens your circadian rhythm, your body’s internal clock that lets you know when it is day and night. Physical activity also helps improve alertness during the daytime.
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.
Later dinner time
Eating dinner right before going to bed has been demonstrated to be bad both for digestion and sleeping. It limits our body’s time to fully absorb the important nutrients from food. Also, for any child who has acid reflux, eating late can worsen the reflux they are having at night. If we eat a large dinner then lay down, acid will 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 do your best to put as much space between dinner and bedtime as possible.
Everyone knows that caffeine is bad for sleep. But, did you know that certain foods and drinks have caffeine, like chocolate and sodas? Giving these to children can be detrimental to a good night’s rest. If your child gets a lot of processed foods, or foods high in sugar and salt, I would encourage you to at least eliminate these after lunch time. It allows the body enough time to get rid of these foods and it will not aggravate sleep.
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.
Just these small changes can have a big impact on your child’s sleep. If you want your child with special needs to be resting better, start by “vanquishing” some of the sleep enemies — you’ll be a super hero!
Your child with special needs can get a great night’s sleep! Contact Melissa to learn more about how she can help!