Can’t sleep, won’t sleep – one of the most common problems parents face, is children who have difficulty sleeping and the result isn’t just mentally exhausted children who struggle to learn, but parents who exist in a permanent state of tiredness themselves.
Whatever type of sleep problem your child has, the factors to consider are the same: along with habitual telly-gazing last thing at night, these include deficiencies of the calming minerals magnesium and calcium, excess sugar or stimulants, food allergies and a lack of physical activity during the day.
Here is a five step plan to follow to ensure that your child (and you) get a good night’s sleep:
- Avoid sugar and stimulants, especially after 4pm. Many of the daily rhythms in your child’s body, including those dictating energy and sleepiness, are finely tuned mechanisms that depend on certain hormonal patterns, chemicals and nutrients.
At night, the levels of the stress hormone cortisol should dip, calming your child down and preparing the body for sleep. If, however, their cortisol levels are out of rhythm for any reason (usually due to stress or a diet high in sugar and stimulants), their ability to get to sleep is likely to be impaired.
- Follow a regular, calming bedtime routine every evening.
- Supplement magnesium and calcium in the evening, and ensure that your child eats plenty of magnesium and calcium-rich foods, such as seeds and crunchy or dark green vegetables. The magnesium and calcium duo has a calming effect on the body and helps relax nerves and muscles.
- Limit television to no more than two hours a day and, if there is a television, computer or games console in your child’s bedroom – remove it.
- Ensure your child has plenty of stimulating physical activity during the day, so they are ready for sleep in the evening.