Paediatric Pillars of Health: SLEEP / Nutrition / Movement
Are your children sleeping their way to Optimal or Sub-Optimal Health?
I strongly believe that good quality sleep is the most important pillar of health for adults and especially for our growing children. Sleep is a biological necessity. We need to sleep to recover from the physical and mental fatigue accumulated during the day. Without proper sleep, the body is simply unable to maintain homeostasis, regenerate, and rejuvenate. In fact, sleep may be one of the most important factors in the achievement of peak performance, optimum functioning, quality of life, and ultimate success.
Our Sleep Deprived Children
"As many as 40% of [Canadian] children aren't getting enough sleep, which is not only impairing their ability to function properly, it's hurting their ability to learn.” Dr. Reut Gruber of Montreal's Douglas Mental Health University Institute
According to a 2011 report from the World Association of Sleep: Sleep problems (including insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and sleep deprivation) affect up to 45% of the world’s population. Adults and children are struggling to cope with "an epidemic" of sleep disorders.
Dr. David F. Finges from Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania has found that a few nights of sleep deprivation leads to reduced brain activity in regions of the brain that control critical thinking and behavioral function including:
Perceptual-motor coordination, consciousness, emotion, physical homeostasis, motor control, self-awareness, cognitive function, personality, planning complex behaviour, decision making, social behaviour, and working memory.
Are Your Children Getting the Sleep They Need?
Babies & Toddlers: Need 12 to 14hrs Ideal Bedtime 7-7:30pm
School-Aged: Need 10 to 12hrs Ideal Bedtime 7:30-8pm
Teens: Need 8.5 to 9.5hrs Later Bedtime due to late Melatonin release
Canadian Pediatric Society
What Happens to Children When They Don't Sleep?
• Hyperactivity, short attention span
• Increased desire for sugar
• Irritability, anxiety, pessimism, paranoia
• Impaired moral judgement
• Difficulty finishing tasks
• Falling asleep in boring situations ie. short car trips, during class
• Impaired short-term memory
• Weakened immunity
• Impaired growth
What's Happening When We Sleep?
Research has demonstrated that during sleep, the brain makes more distant neural associations that don’t occur in wakefulness. These neural associations lead to enhanced aspects of creativity, problem solving, decision making, learning, memory consolidation, and insight.
In addition to allowing the brain to process, integrate, and understand new information learned in the daytime, sleep is when our cells grow and are renewed, immune function is enhanced and detoxification takes place.
Getting A Good Night Sleep
A good night sleep is highly dependent on the quality of our day. The better and healthier the day, the better and healthier the sleep. “Daytime sleep essentials” include:
Starting the day with a protein-rich breakfast, eating mostly clean, whole foods and ensuring lots of water and movement/exercise throughout the day.
A good night sleep is also highly dependent on our bedtime routines. Known as sleep hygiene or night time sleep routine, what our kids do or don’t do in the evening has a serious impact on their sleep. Ideally, bedtime is at the same time every night. If some nights have to be later due to activities, it is important to make up for it the next night. "Night time sleep essentials" include:
At least 1 hour before bed, all screens/blue light electronics are shut down and there’s a “down time” period with a book, bath or music. Bedrooms are best kept completely dark (no night lights on all night please), as clutter-free as possible and not too warm (18 degrees cel.).
For some children, daytime and night time sleep essentials aren’t enough to promote optimal sleep. In such cases, the underlying causes of poor sleep may be related to nutritional deficiencies, particularly Magnesium, or nervous system stress and imbalances such as anxiety.
Children who benefit from Magnesium supplementation are:
Athletes, drink carbonated drinks, suffer from anxiety, eat sweets, crave chocolate, suffer from muscle and stomach cramps, and have difficulty falling asleep.
For those children who suffer from more intense anxiety, restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, recurrent nightmares, calming herbs such as Passiflora and Avena sativa can be exceptionally helpful at healing an overactive nervous system.
Helping Build Strong Pillars of Health
As parents, we all want our children to be healthy and happy so they may lead a successful and fulfilling life. Helping them build a strong and solid first Pillar of Health – Sleep, is one of the greatest gift we can give them.
Dr. Nadine Cyr is a Naturopathic Doctor at Naturopathic Foundations with a focus on paediatrics. She has been a Naturopathic Doctor for over seventeen years and is passionate about finding and treating the underlying causes of dis-ease. To book an appointment with Dr. Nadine Cyr, please call the clinic at 905-940-2727.