If your child with special needs can’t sleep, you’ve likely tried LOTS of things to solve the sleep puzzle. But, have you ever considered the role calcium can play in solving the sleep equation? Here’s 4 ways adequate calcium intake can help you on your journey to better sleep for your child.
It’s a melatonin producer!
Calcium can make bones strong, but it’s also responsible for helping the brain do what it needs to produce melatonin. This is the sleep hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycles. For kids with special needs, they might have difficulty absorbing calcium or obtaining it from food due to a limited diet. This can get the sleep-wake cycles a bit out of whack.
Your child might take forever to fall asleep at the start of the night, or staying asleep through the night. Ensuring your child is getting calcium will promote your child’s natural production of melatonin. In turn, this will help the transition into sleep go a bit smoother. And, it will help to sustain melatonin levels better through the night.
More importantly, it will give your child a better shot at being on a regular sleep routine. And we all know how important consistency and routine is when it comes to sleep!
It mellows out the muscles
If you’ve ever had a twitchy leg, cramp, or felt the restless urge to keep tossing around, you know how frustrating it can be to stay asleep! This is where adequate calcium comes in.
Sufficient levels of calcium in the body allow our muscles to relax. It reduces restless leg sensations (or sleeping “like a windmill” as I recently heard a family describe it). More comfortable sleep equals more restful sleep — a win-win!
It can ward off bad dreams
Nightmares are one of those things that are a normal part of a childhood, and something we’ve all experienced. But, just because bad dreams are common, doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can’t do to prevent them.
If your child has the following in place…
A consistent bedtime routine
The right bedtime
No access to scary TV or book content
Consistent daytime routines…
Consider supplementing with a bit more calcium! Lower calcium levels are not only linked to aches and pains, but nightmares as well.
Good sleep isn’t just about meeting a certain amount of hours of sleep per night. Sleep quality has to do more with the amount of restorative sleep.
Is your child in bed for 10 hours, tossing and turning, up at night, and waking up groggy?
If yes, then something may be off with how the brain cycles through the stages of sleep. Your child should be waking up feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and having a sense of “well-being” when it comes to starting the day.
Proper calcium intake can help make those hours spent in bed really count. Your child will spend the right amount of time in each stage of sleep, which is key for staying asleep once their head hits the pillow at night. Staying asleep is a very common issue our children face, especially for our autistic kids.
What if my child doesn’t eat dairy or has an allergy?
If you’ve come to the conclusion that your child isn’t getting enough calcium, but they can’t tolerate dairy, have no fear! Here is a list of other sources of non-dairy calcium:
- Dark leafy greens
- Calcium fortified foods like orange juice or cereal
- Canned salmon
- Flour tortilla
- Canned baked beans
What if my child is a picky eater?
If your child with special needs is on a limited diet and struggles to get enough calcium from foods, consider supplementing with a nutritional supplement. At Melissa Doman Sleep Consulting, we often suggest Child Life Essentials Liquid Calcium with Magnesium. The magnesium helps your child feel more relaxed going to sleep, in addition to the calcium.
Want to learn more about magnesium and its role in sleep? Check out Melissa’s blog all about it!
Before giving your child any supplement, be sure to speak to your child’s pediatrician. Make sure there aren’t any contraindications with other medications your child is taking.
How much calcium is the right amount?
According to The National Institute of Health, here’s the daily intake of calcium for children:
Will calcium solve our sleep problems for good?
Do keep in mind that any supplementation can be one piece to the puzzle. Predictable routines, a calming environment, enough downtime, and connection with a parent are other considerations when working towards healthier sleep.
The combination of these things, along with appropriate calcium intake, can help kids with special needs get better sleep, and reap the benefits of a good night’s rest.