Sleep - you know children need it for everything from appetite to behavior control, but it also impacts their ability to learn and reach their full academic potential. The body consists of a sophisticated group of systems wherein something that affects one system tends to affect many others. Adequate sleep gives children the best possible chance to retain information, control behavior, and reach their full potential.
Let’s start by taking a look at memory. During sleep, the brain prunes and strengthens connections made during the day. These connections are important for not only learning but also maintaining clear, quick thinking. With enough sleep, the brain can use memory in the most efficient way possible.
For example, when a memory is retrieved, the brain adds new information to the memory when it’s recovered. In that way, your child applies old memories to new situations, enriching and adding to her experiences and knowledge. Sleep helps protect and use memories for future application.
The case for children getting enough sleep gets stronger as studies reveal the unique nature of childhood sleep and it’s ability to enhance the learning process. Children’s brains work differently than adults. Their minds learn faster, creating more connections than adults as they learn and grow. During sleep, children’s brains process new information to incorporate it into new skills and knowledge.
A 2012 study compared the ability of children versus adults to convert implicit knowledge into explicit knowledge. Sleep, as it turns out, gave children the advantage. When implicit knowledge training was followed by a sleeping period, children showed more improvement in related motor functions related to their implicit knowledge than adults. The gains the children made were linked to more slow-wave sleep activity. It makes sense that during childhood when we need to gain as much knowledge as possible, so we’re given the sleep patterns necessary for increased knowledge conversion.
Beyond the brain’s ability to learn, sleep affects children within a learning environment. Mood and behavior control correlate with adequate rest. Children and adults alike have a hard time monitoring their mood when they’re tired. Sleep-deprived children are more likely to be irritable, disruptive, angry, or sad.
Whether your child is in elementary school or high school, adverse behavior from sleep loss can cause problems. Disruptive children are more likely to need extra discipline and miss information because they aren’t paying attention.
Sleep deprivation also increases feelings of anxiety and depression. Tweens and teens often face more of these issues than younger children, but if your child is already at risk because of their age or family history, getting enough sleep is even more critical.
Helping your child establish healthy sleep habits early in her life can set her up for better learning and academic growth long term. These habits may involve setting bedtimes or upgrading your child’s bed with a new mattress. Make sure you know how much sleep your child needs. It can vary anywhere from 8 to 13 hours, depending on your child’s age and individual needs. Children who get better sleep show an increase in math and reading performance, both of which are important for success even beyond the school-age years.
High-quality sleep goes hand in hand with learning success both inside and outside the classroom. When it becomes a priority, you’ll be giving your child a chance to reach her full potential.
Thank you Samantha Kent for this guest blog, Sam is a researcher for SleepHelp.org. Her favorite writing topic is how getting enough sleep can improve your life. If you want to read more sleep articles she has written please visit http://www.sleephelp.org.
This flu season is kicking everyone's butt! Winter 2017/18 has been one illness after another for so many people – I hope you are some of the lucky ones to have avoided anything too nasty so far!
In our house we have had both strep and flu so far this season, which is bad enough for anyone to deal with. But my baby starts daycare next week, so I’m pretty sure that we will soon get the rounds of daycare germs, like hand foot and mouth and stomach flu. All those germs mixing together, it’s a bit of a nightmare isn’t it? I remember a friend in the UK sending me a picture of a notice from outside her toddler’s daycare room which said they had chicken pox, hand foot and mouth and sickness and diarrhoea – talk about a way to make parents run away screaming!
Often a baby’s sleep will regress after they have been sick, so how do you keep them on track or work to eliminate any habits that have been created whilst you were getting through the period of sickness?
1. Let your baby recover in their own bed
It's so tempting at 2am when you're up for the 7th time to pull them into your bed, just so you can get some much needed rest. I get it, you want to give your baby cuddles. But you have to remember that this will also increase your chance of getting sick and parenting is a 24/7 job - you don't get sick days. A healthy Mom or Dad are much better able to care for sick kiddos – you can’t pour from an empty cup after all.
I know when I am sick, all I want is my own bed, and this is also the case for children. Your bed probably has too many covers for them, which along with your body heat can make sleeping in your bed unsafe. You are best to keep them in their own sleep space and make a bed up for yourself on their floor. It may be uncomfortable but it's only for a night or two until they get well.
2. Don't be afraid to give them a night feed
If they are not eating well during the day, or need extra fluids, it's fine to feed them during the night even if they don't normally have a night feed. Just keep the night feed going whilst they really need it and work on eliminating it once your little one is on the mend. A few days won't create a habit that can't be undone, after all. If you continue the night feed once they are well, it will require some gentle sleep training to get them back on track, but shouldn’t take more than a couple of nights to eliminate it once more.
3. Separate the sick and healthy
If your children room share, consider separating them for a few nights. This will reduce the risk of the sickness spreading and it will also give the healthy child the opportunity to get the sleep they need to stay healthy. They will be disturbed by their sibling coughing all night or changing of sheets if it's a stomach bug. Remember to keep the sick child in their own bed and create a fun adventure for the healthy one to have a sleep over somewhere else for a few nights.
4. Let them rest
Even if your little one doesn't nap anymore they will need to catch up on sleep, so let them rest when they can. This may mean early nights or an extra nap. There’s no better way to get well than to sleep, after all.
5. Double layer bedding
I remember when another Mom told me this tip – it was life changing! If your child has a stomach bug then double layer bedding, putting a waterproof sheet in between 2 sheets. This means you just remove the top sheet and the waterproof layer and the bed is already made underneath. If you have a trundle bed also use this to save changing sheets in the middle of the night. No one likes changing sheets at 2am so make life easier for yourself, and get your little one back to sleep sooner by minimising the amount of time it takes to get them settled in their bed once more.
I hope everyone gets healthy really soon, and that these tips help you to get through the sickness with your sanity intact! Hopefully Spring is just around the corner, and then it’ll be Summer before we know it! I’m already dreaming of lazy Summer nights…
If you need help getting your baby back on track with their sleep after sickness, please complete the contact form on the My Little Sleeper website to set up your consultation here https://www.mylittlesleeper.com/contact.
As children get older, it's best to adjust their bedtime routine so that it is suitable for their age. What works for a 6 month old at bedtime doesn’t always work that well for a 3 year old. Kids thrive on consistency, but they also learn to push boundaries and typically this is done at bedtime. Giving toddlers some control over choices at bedtime can help avoid delay tactics. So, what do you do when your bedtime routine is getting longer and longer and involves multiple requests for more drinks and trips to the bathroom. Well, quite simply, you get an Ooly!
As a Sleep Consultant, I am usually pretty sceptical about electronic sleep companions, but when I first heard of the Ooly I was excited by the idea that I could adjust the morning wake up time via my phone if my eldest two were sleeping later than normal. A sleep aid that is controlled by an app – brilliant! But for us, the best bit about this new toddler sleep companion has been the impact Ooly has made on our bedtime routine.
Who is Ooly?
Ooly came about because of the frustration so many parents experience battling their children every night at bedtime and having them wake up way too early in the morning. This is the story of two sleep-deprived parents of three, Marie-Eve and Martin, trying to find a way to get their kids to go to bed and stay there all night long until a reasonable hour. Their dream was to come up with a solution so everyone in the family could sleep soundly at naptime and through the night, completely uninterrupted. Wouldn’t life be a lot more enjoyable if everyone woke up at 7 a.m. instead of 5 a.m., feeling well rested and restored?
How does Ooly work.
We decided our Ooly is a girl Owl. In the evening, you set Ooly’s schedule to turn yellow at 6.45pm, which the girls understood meant time to be getting into the bath. She stays yellow for half an hour, giving us time to have a bath, get into pjs and read a story. I let my daughters decide if they want a shorter bath time and more stories, or if they are being silly and taking time to get dressed they know this will mean less time for stories. At 7.15pm, Ooly turns red which means into beds and time to say good night.
Half an hour is a good length of time for a bedtime routine for a 3 and 4 year old as it is enough time to wind down from their busy day. When Ooly is red, they know it is time for me to leave the room. No hand holding, no extra requests, it is simply time for them to go to sleep. The colour coded system is super easy for toddlers to understand, and reduces those last minute requests at bedtime – Ooly says night night!
How does it help them fall asleep?
My daughters share a room, and as sisters they are very competitive. On day one of having Ooly I gave them the challenge of racing Ooly to fall asleep. At 7.30pm, Ooly's light turns off and this is when they must be asleep. As yet, I haven't had to provide further incentive for this or any consequence as the challenge of being asleep before Ooly is enough for them right now, but you can always add rewards for this if it helps motivate your child.
We have used toddler clocks for some time now and they both understand the concept of staying in their room until the clock goes green. Ooly is set to turn green at 7am and they know not to get up before this. My eldest does have a habit of sleeping in on a Monday (wish she chose to do this on a Saturday or Sunday, but that would just be asking too much!!). When I see she is not stirring by 6.55am, I use the app and push back Oolys wake up time to 7.30am. This means that if she does stir a little and sees that Ooly is not green the chances of her going back to sleep are increased.
The girls love Ooly and see her as an exciting part of their sleep environment. She has been dropped a few times and because of her silicone casing, this has not affected usability. As a sleep consultant, I don't recommend night lights as they can suppress the production of melatonin. However, there are some children that are scared of the dark, and having the option to leave Ooly's light on all night is great for this.
Pink/Red lights are the best at night time, so I would recommend that you select this option for the overnight light if your child needs one. You can also adjust how bright she is which is great for children who get scared of the dark. On the flip side to this, I love that you can turn the light off completely. We do not have the light on at night in the girls’ room, and their room is pitch black. I am a strong believer that a toddler that can’t see where they are going is less likely to get out of their bed!
As with any new product and technology, we did have a few minor operating glitches at first. These have been worked out easily and didn’t require much effort from myself other than to delete and reinstall the app. Customer services are very responsive and quick to rectify any problems you may be having.
As a sleep consultant I am very excited at the multiple functionality that Ooly offers, not just to improve bedtime, but to tackle those early risers too! Ooly – we love you!
If you need an Ooly to be your child's new sleep companion, here is a discount code for you to get 10% off "LIKTTLESLEEPEROOLY" http://www.ooly123.com
Today's guest poster is Katie, a wellness and self-care expert who spends most of her time writing for the blog Sleep Health Energy. Sleep Health Energy is a corner of the internet where experts on quality sleep and optimum health share their wisdom with a growing community of readers. Katie's areas of expertise include natural remedies, DIY cosmetics and staying healthy when travelling. When she's not writing for the blog, you can find her trying out new plant-based recipes, trail running or exploring the world as well as new places in the UK, where she's currently based. In this post, she shares her tips for prioritising you-time as a parent.
The Importance of Taking Some You-Time as a Parent
If you’re a new parent, the idea of having some time to yourself may feel like a distant memory. Between trying to be the best parent you possibly can, keeping the show on the road at home and probably trying to hold down a job into the bargain, parents can tend to push their own needs aside. This happens especially in those first few years before a child goes off to school and when they need constant vigilance to make sure they don’t get up to any mischief.
When life seems so hectic, doing anything entirely for themselves is generally every parent’s last priority. If you find that you’ve put yourself at the bottom of your priority list, however, it’s time to re-evaluate. If you keep giving and giving and do nothing to replenish your stocks, sooner or later you’re going to have nothing left to offer your family. You burning out is going to do nothing to help your children. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
I know how tempting it is to just collapse onto the sofa once your children are asleep and mindlessly stare at the TV for a couple of hours before getting into bed yourself. I know how easy it is for the days and weeks to rush by in a blur. But it’s time to change that.
Just because you’re a parent, doesn’t mean the things that make you YOU have become any less important. What was it that used to make your soul sing? What did you do for no one’s benefit but your own? Whether it was reading books, taking dance classes, going for morning runs or even jumping out of aeroplanes, you need to start doing it again.
Maybe you didn’t really have any hobbies before children, but you always fancied trying your hand at something. Now’s the time.
Okay, so some things have changed. You can’t necessarily just go off and take a spontaneous exercise class anymore, these things have to be planned in advance! Make sure you schedule some you-time into your week. By having it in black and white in your diary or on your phone calendar you’ll be more likely to follow through than if it just remains a vague idea in your head.
The reality is that if you don’t actively schedule in this time for yourself, a million other things will come up and it probably won’t happen.
Both you and your partner deserve equal you-time, and the other one should be prepared to pick up the slack when one of you is out taking some time for themselves. And vice versa!
But do stuff together too…
Don’t forget about your relationship. If you’re lucky enough to be surrounded by family, accept those offers to babysit, or get recommendations for a trusted babysitter. Get out and go climbing or dancing or whatever it is you used to do BC (Before Children). It’s good for your kids to get used to being looked after by other people from a young age so they don’t get too clingy, and your relationship will be far stronger as a result.
Take the kids along
Doing something for yourself doesn’t necessarily mean that your kids have to stay at home with your partner or a babysitter. Lots of gyms offer creches and childcare whilst you do your class, or even offer parent and child classes. Do you run? Invest in one of those running strollers and take them out for some fresh air. Are you a travel addict? Travelling with kids isn’t as scary as you might think. Whatever it is, see if there’s a way to take your little ones along with you, even if it involves a bit of extra effort. It’ll be worth it.
It’s the little things
Your you-time doesn’t always have to be something written down on the calendar. Treat yourself in small ways every day, whether it’s eating your favourite foods in a mindful way or doing five minutes of meditation, or anything that makes you feel good.
Stay true to yourself, treat yourself kindly and make sure you remain YOU and don’t lose your identity and become just ‘mum’ or ‘dad’. You’ll have far more to offer your children.
Hi, I'm Alison, a UK based blogger and share random food related thoughts, adventures and experiences of a Sheffield based, sleep deprived mum of 3 veggie boys (9, 4 and 1), and our cooking and eating together.I have a Diploma in Nutrition with a special interest in children’s nutrition, but putting theory into practice isn’t always easy when you are tired from feeding the baby all night, your 4 year old is demanding Coco Pops for dinner, and your 9 year old vegetarian son has decided he has an aversion to most vegetables. Here are my thoughts on food and sleep!
This parenting lark is pretty tough, isn’t it? I’ve got three boys, aged 9, 4 and 14 months, and most days I still feel like I’m making it all up as I go along. Day to day, I’m constantly worrying about and obsessing over how well they are sleeping (never well enough), and how much food they are eating (the big two are eating me out of house and home, and the baby is surviving on a bowl of porridge and fresh air most days). Sleep and food are often the biggest worries for parents in those first couple of years; they cast such a big shadow over all the decisions you make as a parent and you can easily become a slave to naps, mealtimes and bedtime routines.
I remember when my oldest son was small, my baby group friends and I would talk endlessly about how the babies had slept the previous night, trying to remember how often they had fed that day, then doing our best to replicate it, if the night had been a good one. And by good, I mean if the babies had slept for longer than a 2 hour stretch. Now, on baby number 3, I’m just too sleep deprived to remember what happened half an hour ago, so have no hope of trying to recreate the perfect day’s food in order to achieve the perfect night’s sleep!
There has been much written in recent years about how food and sleep are so closely linked, and there is plenty of useful advice and tips that parents can adopt to try and help their little ones sleep better.
First the ‘science bit’ – tryptophan is an essential amino acid (essential indicates that it is not made by the body, so needs to be ingested in the form of food), which is like nature’s sleeping pill. The brain converts tryptophan into serotonin and then to melatonin, which induces and maintains restful sleep.
Great, so which foods do we get tryptophan from, you ask? Some foods rich in tryptophan include:
OatsDairy foods – milk, yoghurt, cottage cheeseEggsFishTofuPoultryBananasNuts and seedsQuinoaBuckwheatSweet potatoes
So, plenty of everyday healthy foods which we should be trying to include regularly in our diets, and serving up to our children once they are eating solid foods too. Providing meals and snacks which are based around many of the foods above, with the addition of plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, is an ideal way to fuel and nourish growing kids, whilst also helping to promote the all important full night’s sleep.
Eating a healthy balanced dinner, containing slow release carbohydrates, some lean protein and plenty of vegetables, followed by a dairy based pudding, would be a great way to help children’s bodies and minds prepare for a restful night. How about trying an age appropriate sized portion of homemade mushroom risotto, oven baked cod, green beans and peas with greek yoghurt and fresh berries for dessert. A delicious dinner time, whatever age you are!
Combining a dairy product with a carbohydrate rich food further increases the level of tryptophan in the bloodstream, making a small bowl of wholegrain cereal with milk an ideal pre-bedtime snack, particularly if dinner was earlier than usual, or the kids didn’t eat very well. It is important to keep snacks before bedtime small however, because eating too much just before bedtime can cause the digestive system to become overloaded, making sleep more disrupted.
So, now we know a little about the foods that can aid sleep, how about those foods to avoid before bedtime?
High fat foods have been linked to disrupted sleep, as fat stimulates the production of acid in the stomach which can rise up the oesophagus causing heartburn. Burgers, fries and fatty desserts are best avoided at all times, but particularly before bedtime.Caffeine is another one to avoid. For adults this would include the obvious; coffee, tea, and energy drinks, but chocolate also contains caffeine, so steering the kids away from chocolate treats before bedtime should mean they sleep better, and their dentist will thank you too!Large portions of protein rich foods in the evening can also disrupt sleep, as protein is harder for the body to digest and contains the amino acid tyrosone which promotes brain activity – not what you want at bedtime! Make sure that children are eating sufficient protein at breakfast and lunchtime, and keep protein portions smaller in the evenings.For adults, alcohol may cause you to fall asleep quicker, but often causes you to wake more frequently and have less restful sleep over all. Alcohol also causes many people to snore in their sleep, disrupting the sleep of their partner too!
If you are struggling to think of recipe ideas or ways to include tryptophan rich foods in your family’s diet, how about some of my suggestions below:
Mysweet potato porridge is a brilliant way to start the day for the whole family; with oats, sweet potato, carrot and milk, and finished with your favourite fruity or nutty toppings, it’s a warming bowl of deliciousness that is high in fibre, slow releasing carbs and potassium.
For an even quicker breakfast option, how about a toasted bagel slathered in peanut butter and banana slices. Great for kids of all ages, as it satisfies their naturally sweeter palate, but delivers on the nutrition front too, making parents equally as happy.
Myseedy loafis packed full of crunchy seeds, making it super tasty and filling at lunchtime. I love this topped with smashed avocado or turmeric scrambled eggs, and the boys love to dip toasted fingers into softly boiled eggs.
This jewelled couscous salad, served with stir fried tofu chunks and a dollop of hummus is another family friendly lunchtime option. Light and summery, it makes a great option for dining al fresco in the sunshine. If you are not a fan of tofu, replace it with another tryptophan rich protein source, such as fish or poultry.
One of our regular family dinners is oven baked salmon fillet, served with sweet potato wedges and steamed broccoli – delicious, whatever your age, and packed full of heart healthy fats, slow release carbs and the all important sleep inducer, tryptophan.
The perfect quick and easy to prepare kid friendly dinner has to be stir fry - chicken noodle stir fry, with babycorn, sweet peppers and mangetout, served with a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of crushed peanuts, scores high in the taste stakes, and fills even the hungriest of tummies with healthy and nutritious fare. Swap out the chicken for tofu if you are vegetarian, or serve the noodles and vegetables alongside a steamed white fish fillet.
Greek yoghurt topped with fresh fruit and a few seeds or chopped nuts makes a great dessert or snack at any time of the day.
How about swapping more traditional dairy desserts, such as yoghurt, for some cottage cheese with chopped apricots and raisins stirred through to sweeten? Low in sugar, with plenty of protein and slow release carbs, it makes a tasty dessert and is also a great alternative at breakfast time.
My blueberry quinoa flapjack bars are the ideal kid friendly snack. They contain no added sugar, but are sweetened by fruits, and the quinoa and oats release their energy slowly, making them a great mid afternoon power-me-through-till-dinnertime snack for hungry tummies.
All kids love the crunch of a cracker, but regular crackers are often high in sugar and fat which are not great for kids. These oaty chickpea crackers are great for dipping into hummus or salsa, or serving with a slice of cheese for a light pre bedtime snack. Adults love them as much as kids!
If you enjoyed these recipe ideas and would like more of the same, why not follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, or check out my blog at www.dippyeggplease.wordpress.com
The summer months are here and that means many of us will be looking forward to vacations. As fun as these will be it comes with its stresses, what to pack, have we remembered everything, will the kids be nightmare on the journey, did we lock the house up when we left? One topic that is always on parents' minds is their little one's sleep, especially if you have just got your child into some good sleep habits and you don't want them to regress to being up all night again. Vacations almost always lead to some some disruption to their sleep, whether due to jet lag, naps not working out on the journey or just a different sleep environment meaning they aren't as happy going to and staying asleep. Therefore I've put together some tips to help reduce your stress and encourage some healthy sleep whilst you are away.
Familiar items from home will help your little one fall asleep and stay asleep. Remember to pack their favorite teddy or lovey. If they are old enough to have something in their bed and don't yet have anything, introduce this a week or two before your trip. It may not seem like they are too bothered about it initially, but in a new environment this will be comforting. If you have two, pack two, just in case one gets lost or dirty.
Other items to pack:
Tin foil & tape to black out the light. Unless you are in a hotel it's likely the window treatments won't allow for a pitch dark room. Make sure it's tight to the window so the tin foil doesn't rattle or fall down during the night. There are travel blind products available: however, some are difficult to stick to the window and can't be custom fit to the space. They also take up more room in your luggage compared with tin foil. Use a travel white noise machine, whether on an app or an actual machine. If using an app make sure to turn your phone onto airplane mode and face down so if you get a message in the night it won't disturb them. When picking an app, look for one that is consistent white noise throughout the night, not one that turns off after 20 minutes. Sleep sack or blanket? Hotels won't provide bedding in a pack and play or travel crib so if your child uses a toddler pillow or blanket at home, it will be worth while taking this with you.
If you don't bed share at home there's no need to start on vacation. Some children will become restless at night if they are suddenly sharing their sleep space. Do what you can to create their own sleep environment and make sure it's safe.
Call ahead to see what options are available at the location. Even ask them to send you a photograph as quality can vary markedly from hotel to hotel. Most hotels now do provide pack and plays, but don't assume this. If your child is too big for a pack and play, look at purchasing a toddler air mattress or a camp bed. Failing that, you can also use cushions to make a bed up on the floor. If they wake in the night, don't worry about waking others. Do as you would at home. Don't reintroduce any previously used sleep props such as bouncing, rocking and feeding.It may take a little bit more time and effort to get your little one to sleep whilst on vacation. However, the effort is worth while when compared to the work you will have to do to break the new formed habit when you return home.
Little ones that normally nap in their crib for naps, may struggle to fall asleep on the go. Don't stress too much and do what you can. They may take a shorter nap than normal as they are not used to the motion to fall asleep and then wake after their first sleep cycle. Allow for a quieter afternoon and early bedtime.
Plan naps and journeys accordingly. If you know your little one will sleep on the go, take advantage of this and plan the car journey for when they are due to nap. Schedule quiet days to give your little one the opportunity to catch up on their sleep. Especially if they are waking earlier in the morning or having short naps.Don't assume they are ready to drop their nap if they are struggling to nap on vacation. Do what you can to get them the rest they need. Get back to your normal schedule when you are back from vacation.
Stick to your bedtime and nap time routine. Your little one will be more accepting of their new sleep environment if they have their consistent routine.
If you will be having a late night, adjust their day schedule to allow for this. Give them a later nap so they are not overtired going to bed. Don't introduce new habits at bed time; you may find it takes your little one longer to fall asleep in their new environment but try to stick to your normal routine. As mentioned earlier, it is easier to put in a bit of extra effort whilst you are away than spending weeks trying to resolve sleep trouble once you get back.
Schedule & jetlag
It can take 1 day for every hour you are adjusting their schedule.
For a short vacation with 3 hour time difference or less, consider keeping them on your home time zone.Remember jet lag doesn't just affect sleep; it affects their whole internal body clock, so be prepared for them to be hungry earlier or later than normal. Don't rush the adjustment. Follow their lead and use age appropriate awake times to get them on track.
When you return home from vacation have some quiet days so you can get back to your usual schedule and routine. Any bad sleep habits created whilst away should stop. It may take a night or two for this, but any longer will make it harder to eliminate them. If you have had terrible sleep whilst you were away, often this resolves itself by simply having everyone back in their own beds. If you find things are not resolving a week after returning from your trip you may need to do some sleep training to get back on track.
Please contact us at My Little Sleeper if you have any questions or need help with this.
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