Bedtime Rituals & The Importance of Sleep for Kids

by lydia on August 28, 2013

Do you have a bedtime ritual in your home for your kids? I’ve always made bedtime important in my home (except for a year or two during my extreme adrenal exhaustion that I couldn’t care less about anything). I don’t know about you, but I like my sleep and I like my quiet time at night when the boys are all in bed, and I really want my boys to get adequate sleep. It’s critical for optimal health to ensure children get adequate sleep, yet so many parents do not make it a priority. I do believe that is in part due to the challenge it can become. Wired kids not able to relax on their own accord can be troublesome to wind down. With a little knowledge and education on the importance of sleep, it’s possible to get a bedtime ritual that works for your kids and your family.

Bedtime

Sleep impacts every area of life and can make or break a child’s whole day. Quality sleep helps the body to rebuild and restore. Growth Hormone is produced when sleep is sound, which is immensely important to a growing child. The human body runs on a daily cycle, also known as our circadian rhythm. Every cell has an internal clock telling it the time of day. If one is in good health, these clocks work in sync, the circadian rhythm is synchronized and optimal health can be had. When our circadian rhythms are off balance or disrupted, disease can set in. Deprivation of sleep can create a vicious cycle of excess stress hormones, reduced sleep-inducing melatonin, and low growth hormone.

It is also of utmost importance to avoid excess sugars/refined sugars. This should be a no brainer. Sugar depletes magnesium reserves, a critical mineral needed to support the body to relax and induce deep sleep. Also, physical exercise/movement that is enjoyable but not extreme, as you do not want to stress your adrenals further, will be imperative to aiding quality sleep. (Avoid exercise or excess activity close to bed time if you have trouble falling asleep, shoot for earlier in the day). Exercise and movement help with appropriate serotonin production. Make sure your kids are getting enough movement. Don’t allow them to veg out in front of the TV or video games. Encourage them to go outside every day and play -if the weather is bad have some back up ideas to keep them moving in the house (we have a rebounder and some dance games in our home for just those occasions, as well as a large porch for roller blading and skate boarding).

Bedtime Ritual

Our families bedtime ritual is pretty darn consistent. It’s one of the things I’m pretty adamant about and for good reason. I try to keep a schedule like this -during the week, Sunday – bedtime is as early as 7:30, Monday-Thursday- bedtime is at 8 pm and Friday night they get to stay up a bit later, usually only 9pm but occasionally it’s a bit later. Saturday night they are at their dad’s, so I have no control over bedtime then. For the most part they all usually get 9-11 hours of sleep per night. School aged kids need about 10-11 hours of sleep per night according to the National Sleep Foundation. Teens need about 9.5 hours of sleep. My oldest is allowed to stay up until 9 pm.  I make sure to take away any electronics (cell phone/Ipod) so he can get sleep. On the weekends he may stay up until 10-11 pm. During the school year this coming year he will have to be at school at 7:30 am. He’ll have to get up at 6:00 am to get out the door on time for school. The 9 pm bedtime will still work okay for him so long as he is ready to fall asleep right away. In that case, he will likely take some sleep support to ensure he can relax and fall right to sleep. My plan may not work in your family, I share it just to give you an idea of what ritual can look like with quality and quantity of sleep in mind for growing children.

Sleep Support For Kids

My kids have several things that they need to help them get to sleep easily. Here are some basic suggestions, including supplements/herbs/essential oils.

  • A bedtime snack. Choose something small with protein preferably to help keep the blood sugar even throughout the night and to provide the amino acids needed that are the precursors to serotonin and melatonin production. Nuts make a quick easy snack -we like brazil nuts or macademias. Sometimes a few pieces of raw cheese or a piece of beef jerky.
  •  A bedtime calming drink. I try to get them the drink earlier in the evening after dinner so they are not drinking a lot right at bedtime. We use several things, Quiet Child Tea or some type of chamomile/passionflower blend of tea. OR, some Natural Calm (magnesium) in some water (which my boys affectionately call ‘magnesium water’). My youngest will often request milk, and milk contains tryptophan and milk peptides that work to promote relaxation.
  • A bath in epsom salts with lavender essential oil is a good option for kids who have trouble relaxing.
  • Magnesium oil or spray on the child’s midsection and legs. This is also helpful for ‘growing pains’/’leg aches’ that often occur in childhood.
  • A product by Biotics called VHP (stands for; valerian, hops, passionflower, 3 calming/relaxing -sleep inducing herbs).
  • Essential oils are a nice touch as well – we use both lavender and Melissa oil (lemon balm) on pillowcases at night for stress relief and relaxation.
  • Sleep Pillows – Consider making or buying a sleep pillow filled with sleep inducing calming herbs. Here’s how to make one along with some further tips for insomnia.

 

Things To Help Children Calm Down and Sleep Well

  • Routine is important to a child more than you may realize. Kids need boundaries and routine is one way to give them to them. Include things in the routine that make them feel loved and cared for, so they go to bed in peace instead of angst.
  • Dim Lights in the Evening. Shutting out the majority of the lights in the house after 7 pm or so will help the body to start producing it’s own melatonin. Shutting off the TV earlier is a good idea as well.
  • Dark Bedrooms -teach your children young to sleep in a darkened room. Keeping out any light will ensure melatonin production is not interrupted and help your child sleep better at night. If your child needs light because of fear issues, use a dim warm night light to help them and once they are asleep turn it off. Room darkening shades are great to have if you have too much outside light coming in. Often thick dark curtains should do the trick.
  • White Noise – White noise helps to drown out other possible noises in the house or from outside and help kids sleep without sudden disruption. A simple fan should do.
  • Comfort Items – such as a favorite blanket, stuffed animals, fresh sheets, sleep pillows (with herb sachet inside), eye masks etc…..My younger kids still seem to want certain things like these at bedtime, my older two don’t care. My 10 year old likes to read himself to sleep, which doesn’t take long and my oldest like to listen to tunes and text his friends.
  • Bedtime ‘Cuddles/Tuck In’ Rituals – This includes the LOVE part – I still tuck in two of my boys, talk to them for a few minutes and make them feel uber loved. My older two I stand at the door in their room and talk with them about the next day or just tell them I love them and goodnight. They don’t seem to need all the snuggles and cuddles, just the acknowledgement works for them (though I do sneak in hugs and tickles whenever I can). Some people like to say prayers at night with their kids. I often just wish them a peaceful sleep and find my 8 year old needs ideas to get him into dreamland from time to time -so I give him wonderful dream thoughts. I used to have to give back scratches and tickles. When they were little I’d read to them (now they can read to themselves). Though once in a while I read a book to the 3 younger ones -mostly in the winter time. You get the idea! Just spread the love on thick to help calm them.

If you find you are still having trouble getting your child to sleep you may want to get an Adrenal Salivary Index Test to find out what their cortisol/hormone patterns are in case that is impeding their sleep. Also, consider checking for food allergies.

If after applying these tips you still have difficulty falling asleep there may be other imbalances to consider. You may need to consult a local sleep center for further aid in finding the triggers causing your disruption. Or consider consulting with an alternative health care practitioner or a holistic doctor to determine what could be triggering your child’s sleep disruptions. Most people will not have to go this route, the important thing to remember is to deal with troubled sleep since it’s critical to overall health. If you have a ‘night owl’ know that that is not ‘normal’ something is out of balance and may need to be addressed.

 

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica November 25, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Where can I get magnesium oil? I’ve seen some sprays on Vitacost and Amazon and want to know if they need a carrier oil to be applied directly to the skin. Thanks!

Reply

lydia January 14, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Jessica,

You can get it on Amazon like you mentioned or in a local health food store. I’ve used the Ancient Minerals spray and Health and Wisdom Inc. Magnesium Gel. I tend to prefer the gel a bit better and it’s easiest placed on the soles of the feet. You can also make your own, though I never have – I believe Delicious Obsessions has a recipe on her site! You can apply either directly to the skin -but also can cut it with another oil if you prefer though you will need a lot more if you go that route.

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