Natural remedies for children for a successful bedtime and restful sleep

Do you daydream about your child calmly and effortlessly drifting off to sleep and peacefully sleeping through the night?

You are not alone! Most parents struggle with bedtime at some point in their child’s life. Insomnia is also common in people of all ages, including children.

This can have a big impact not only on your child’s health and daytime behaviour, but it puts a big dampener on any relaxing evening time alone or with your partner. It affects everyone’s quality of life.

 
 When children don’t get enough sleep they don’t necessarily act sleepy the way that adults do. In fact, they often become more hyper, irritable and they lack concentration. This can affect their performance at school also. When a child is overtired, it can make it much harder for them to fall asleep and/ or stay asleep which may turn into a bit of a vicious circle. And often tired and weary parents may be tempted to skip naps or push bedtime later, but this only exacerbates the problem. Research shows that children who go to bed after 9:00 p.m. often take longer to fall asleep, wake more frequently during the night, and end up sleeping less overall.[1]
In extreme and chronic cases of lack of adequate sleep, the risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome increase, which are in turn risk factors for developing heart disease and diabetes later on in life[2]
 

How much sleep should my child get?


While there is no hard and fast rule, according to www.sleepcouncil.org.uk
Toddlers need around 12 hours of sleep a night;
Children aged three to six – 10-12 hours;
Seven-twelve years olds – 10-11 hours;
Teenagers – around eight to nine hours.


But we should be focusing both on sleep quality as well as quantity by encouraging a calm and relaxing sleep routine.


 

Healthy Sleep Routines

To help your child get a better night’s sleep it’s essential to have a relaxing evening and bedtime routine. Screen time before bed can make it much harder to fall asleep easily. The blue light emitted by electronics causes the body to delay release of melatonin, the hormone responsible for making us sleepy at night.[3]  A warm bath, dim lights and reading bedtime stories can help your child to relax and get ready for sleep.

Sugar and caffeine in the evening can also make it difficult for your child to sleep soundly as they have a stimulating effect on the body and brain. Be mindful of the evening snacks or drinks you offer your child. It's always good to also avoid refined (white) carbs, try something that includes complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. Combining nutrients in this way helps to stabilise blood sugar and prevent the highs and lows in energy and mood that can come from sugary and processed foods. Try these snacks: carrots and hummus, wholegrain toast or crackers with peanut butter or avocado, apple slices with almond butter. 

Also remember their daytime physical activity -  if your child spends a lot of time sitting still during the day they may not be sleeping as well at night. Your little ones need to burn off energy so that we are tired enough to sleep well at night. A good goal is to make sure your child is getting at least 30 min and ideally 1 hour of outdoor play time every day to run around. Getting them involved in sports of gymnastic clubs once the lockdown eases is also a good idea.


The 3 Best Natural Sleep Remedies for Kids

If changing your child’s bedtime routine isn’t enough to help them sleep, here are five of my favourite natural treatments that may help:
There are many products and remedies on the market – beware these vary hugely in quality and effectiveness. Here’s are my favourite remedies and specific products that I have successfully used and recommended over the years.
 
Lavender
Just the smell of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is relaxing to most people and it’s widely used in aromatherapy to calm the nervous system and promote restful sleep. For children aged 5+, you can use a few drops of Lavender essential oil in a bath (I am not too keen on ready scented "calming bath soaps"). You can spritz a few drops of lavender essential oil (diluted in water) on your child’s pillowcase and duvet; or indeed buy a readily made pillow mist.


 When using essential oils don’t apply them directly to the skin because they can be irritating. They are perfectly safe when diluted. 1-2 drops is all you need at a time. Use extra caution when using essential oils around infants and children who have asthma. 

Magnesium
My top remedies are lavender oil and magnesium which are conveniently combined in BetterYou 's sleep lotion (the magnesium in absorbed through the skin).

Magnesium is an essential mineral for health: it is needed for building bones as well as maintaining healthy muscle and nerve function. It has a calming effect on the nervous system and may help to promote restful sleep.

Children may lack magnesium in their diet (best sources are: dark green leafy vegetables and wholegrains). Poor sleep and constipation may signal that your child isn’t getting enough magnesium. More advanced symptoms of a magnesium deficiency could be low mood, poor concentration, muscle weakness and cramps. Furthermore, under stress, children may show more of the symptoms of a magnesium deficiency because the body uses up magnesium to deal with the stress response - so if the lockdown has added to your child's anxiety, they may need more magnesium.


A good dosage for most children ages 2 to 8 year old is 100 mg of magnesium at bedtime. The recommended upper daily limit for older children is 350 mg.[4]
This is a more detailed breakdown of recommended dosage by age:

Age Recommended magnesium intake
1-3 years 80 mg/day
4-8 years 130 mg/day
9-13 years 240 mg/day
Females
14-18 years 360 mg/day
Males
14-18 years 410 mg/day

 
Chamomile
Chamomile is one of my favourite herbs and hence Chamomile tea is one of my pantry staples. It is the perfect herb for cranky infants and children who can’t settle down enough to fall sleep. A small amount of honey can be added for children over 12 months old to make the tea tastier. Chamomile is generally considered very safe (unless you have an allergy to daisies or related plants).


Although sleep issues are very common and often relatively harmless, if your child experiences chronic insomnia it may be related to a more serious medical condition and you should consult your family doctor. Sleep disorders in children and adolescents can be a sign of anxiety, depression, ADHD, thyroid disease, sleep apnoea, and even asthma.
 
References:
[1] Help Kids Sleep All Night. WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/children/features/help-kids-sleep-all-night#1. Accessed February 28, 2017.


[2] Li L, Zhang S, Huang Y, Chen K. Sleep duration and obesity in children: A systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health. 2017 January.


[3] How Blue Light Effects Kids & Sleep. National Sleep Foundation. https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/how-blue-light-affects-kids-sleep. Accessed February 28, 2017.


[4] Magnesium. Linus Pauling Institute. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/magnesium. Published January 3, 2017. Accessed February 28, 2017.

 

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