How can we reduce problems with sleep?

Many children (and parents) struggle with establishing a regular, healthy sleep routine. This is especially true when our children have additional needs because they often have dysregulations in their neurotransmitter levels or are particularly sensitive to external stimuli. They may also be affected by circadian rhythm disorders or be genetically predisposed to certain sleep issues.

We’re going to consider the main ways we can help our children get in to a regular sleeping pattern and to make sure they are getting good quality, restorative sleep.

Environmental Factors

Behavioural Solutions

Natural & Herbal Sleep Solutions

Melatonin

Melatonin is one of the things I’m most asked about by sleep-deprived parents. Some consultants will prescribe liquid or tablet melatonin supplements. Some parents choose to order if over the internet from place such as Biovea, but others prefer to try to increase the melatonin levels naturally. Here are some of the best way to do so, according to Our Paleo Life:

There are many things one can do to naturally increase melatonin levels without supplements. The biggest one has to do with lights.

1. Take A Break From Technology

The best way to repair your circadian rhythm, experts say, is to stop using technology for a prolonged period of time. One week was found to be the perfect amount of time to normalize sleeping patterns for a group of participants who were asked to go camping for a week.

You can try to not touch any technology at home for a week but let’s face it, in today’s world it is nearly impossible to avoid technology at home. Even if you don’t want to watch TV, your spouse or your children might and that’ll tempt you to watch too.

The best solution is to plan a getaway for the whole family and turn off all the technology. If you must use it, designate only one or two hours in the middle of the day for it. Plus, leaving technology behind is a great way for the family to bond face to face.

2. Start Dimming Lights Early

Most people make the mistake of thinking melatonin starts when they turn off the lights to go to sleep, but this is not true. Melatonin levels increase when your body starts to sense there is less light.

What you can do to aid this process is by dimming the lights in your house and bedroom earlier. At least one hour before bedtime, start to turn off the lights in the house that you do not need and only leave on the ones that are crucial.

If you only have one light in your bedroom, consider getting a desk lamp or installing a light

dimmer so you can control the amount of light you can have in your room. By reducing the intensity of the light in your house way before bedtime, you’ll be signaling to your body to get ready for bed and this should help the chemicals going.

3. Reduce Exposure to Blue Lights Before Bed Time

We’re all guilty of this. Scrolling through our phones before bedtime but this is probably one of the worst sleeping habits anyone can have. The blue light emitted from your phone screen is distinctly harmful to melatonin production.

It’s not easy to put away the phone though, we know. What we suggest is for you keep the phone outside of your bedroom. Leave it charging in the kitchen or in the living room and let your friends and family know that you are trying to reduce phone usage before bedtime so they don’t call unless it’s an emergency.

Also: pro tip – blue blocking glasses at night. Check out Amazon for a bunch of options.

4. Cut Back on Social Media

Similar to point number three, social media is one of the reasons why many people are addictedto their cell phones and computers. If you find yourself scrolling through social media for hours before bedtime, stop.

5. Eat A Healthy Diet

While this seems like a generic piece of advice, a healthy diet is crucial to better sleep. In fact, did you know all plants have a certain amount of melatonin in them? That’s because plants, like us, also rely on light to grow.

Foods that have a high amount of naturally occurring melatonin are:

  • Tart cherries
  • Asparagus
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet potato
  • Pomegranate
  • Olives
  • Nuts and seeds

Foods that are rich in tryptophan, magnesium, calcium, and B6 are also known to promote sleepiness.

6. Increase Relaxation

Another way to induce sleepiness at night is to increase relaxation and this could mean different things for different people. For example, music might relax one person but might stimulate another.

Here’s some ideas:

  • Take a bath
  • Essential oil diffuser
  • Play soothing music
  • Use a sound machine that plays white noise
  • Drink non-caffeinated herbal tea
  • Stretch
  • Search, Ponder and Pray

Anxiety & sleep

The last point on that list is very important for our children. Many of them struggle with anxiety and/or depression. Being able to process their emotions and anxieties can have a dramatic affect on the quality of their sleep.

The Therapist’s Aid website has some great worksheets, so does Twinkl.

Have a look at our previous post about anxiety workbooks and worry eaters if you feel anxiety is an issue for your child or young person.

Do you have any sleep management tips you’d like to share with other parents? Let us know in the comments!

P x

How to help our children with anxiety: using workbooks

Many of our children struggle with anxiety; especially if they have SEN or disabilities. The anxiety has only been heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic and the many disruptions to their lives. I’m often asked for recommendations of emotional literacy resources and workbooks to help with anxiety. Here are a few of the favourites- let me know if you’ve used them or there’s any others you have found particularly helpful.

P x

No Worries! Mindful Kids: An activity book for children who sometimes feel anxious or stressed

No Worries! is an interactive self-care activity book for children aged 7+ to colour and doodle their way to happiness, calm and confidence.

The encouraging and simple activities and exercises tackle anxiety, sadness and stress; children will enjoy using their creativity to combat negative feelings, work out why they feel worried and how to put stress back in its place through writing, colouring, doodling and drawing.

Featuring the charming and quirky illustrations of Katie Abey, a UK-based illustrator. Her quirky pictures will keep the reader entertained and focused as they work through the book, or simply dip into the pages for ten minutes of calm colouring.

CBT strategies to help kids ages 6 to 10 stand up to anxiety and feel calm

Worrying all the time can stop kids from having fun with friends, hobbies, sports, or school. The CBT Workbook for Kids helps them get back to doing the things they love. The ideas and activities inside use proven, up-to-date cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) strategies to help manage―or even change―worried thoughts and feelings.

This CBT workbook is an emotional toolbox for any anxious child, full of methods to help lower anxiety. First it helps them figure out what’s going on in their heads, and then it gives them tools to change it. Fun quizzes, drawing challenges, and fill-in-the-blank exercises show them new ways to look at each worry.

The CBT Workbook for Kids includes:

  • Helpful skills―Learn techniques for expressing feelings, dealing with anger, staying focused, and making smart decisions.
  • Relaxation strategies―Discover everyday calming methods, like creating a morning routine, asking for help, and facing fears a tiny bit at a time.
  • Experiences from other kids―Each chapter in this CBT workbook has stories about how other kids might experience anxiety, too.

Helps kids take a deep breath, face their fears, and win with this CBT workbook!

Conquer anxiety and calm your body and mind–a workbook for teens ages 13 and up

Anxiety is a difficult emotion to manage, and the added stressors of teenage life can make it feel impossible to overcome. But you have the power to handle it–you just need the right tools. Unlock your ability to conquer anxiety with this therapeutic workbook. The exercises teach you practical, effective techniques to tackle worrying in the moment―so it doesn’t ruin your day and run your life.

You’ll find out how to identify the types of anxiety you’re experiencing–general anxiety, social anxiety, panic attacks, or phobias. Using strategies from cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness practices, you’ll learn how to manage your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. With helpful examples of real scenarios teenagers face at school, home, or with friends, this book is your secret weapon against anxiety in any situation.

The Conquer Anxiety Workbook for Teens lets you:

  • Soothe your mind―Learn how anxiety plays tricks on your mind, and find out how to be more realistic and confident while correcting “thinking errors” and old beliefs.
  • Understand your body―Discover immediate calming strategies like body scanning, taking charge of your anxious alter-ego, creating a self-care routine, and more.
  • Write in the book―This workbook has lined space to invite you to answer questions, try thoughtful exercises, and take quizzes right on the page.

Release stress and worry while you nurture your mental health with the Conquer Anxiety Workbook for Teens.

Big Life Journal (ages 7-10)

Big Life Journal helps children develop strong Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and growth mindset skills through inspiring stories, colourful illustrations, and engaging guided activities.

In this illustrated journal, children discover:

  • how to believe in themselves
  • how to face challenges with confidence 
  • mistakes are opportunities to grow 
  • they can achieve anything when they’re persistent

Are there any others that are your particular favourites? Let me know in the comments 🙂

P x

How to help our children with anxiety: The Worry Eater

Worry-eaters!
These are a fabulous resource if you have a child who struggles with anxiety and also finds it difficult to either express their worries or put them to one side. They can draw a picture of their worry, or write it down and then feed it to the worry monster!

When the child is ready, they can take the worry out and chat about it. Sometimes they prefer not to; they like to feed the worry to the monster and then forget about it.
Use your discretion as to whether it’s a big worry that needs to be talked about; or a little worry that can be mentally processed and then discarded.

It’s an effective method for visual and kinesthetic learners to process emotions and make them a little more ‘concrete’ rather than abstract.
They also come in a key ring form with a little Velcro mouth; handy for when you’re out and about or the child is away from home.

Have you used a worry monster or a worry letter box?
What methods do you find have been most useful for helping your child to cope with anxiety?

P x