The Do's & Don'ts of Sleep for Kids

The Do's & Don'ts of Sleep for Kids

Article By: Dominica Dieffenbach, RDN

Dominica is a Registered Dietitian and mom of 2 kiddos currently specializing in the special needs pediatric population. She has over 15 years of experience as an RD, working with a wide variety of patients to provide them with individualized medical nutrition therapy and education.

Getting good sleep is vital when it comes to healthy bodies & powerful minds. When kiddos don’t get the recommended amount of sleep, it can lead to an increase in behavioral and emotional problems, poor focus and attention in school, and struggles with peer relationships. Preschoolers (ages 3-5) generally need between 10-13 hours of sleep per night, and school-age children (ages 6-13) need between 9-11 hours of sleep per night. Teenagers often need even more than this!

1) Sleep hygiene.

Creating good sleep hygiene for kids can include keeping bedtime and waking times consistent (even on the weekends), relaxing before bed with a warm bath and reading books, limiting naps for older children, and limiting screen time at least 2 hours before bed. The blue light emitted by tablets, televisions, and phones creates a significant disturbance in sleep quality. Melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep, is sensitive to this light. Exposure to screens, especially before bed, can disrupt melatonin production leading to difficulties falling and staying asleep.

2) Vitamin B6.

Simply put — adequate levels of B6 support the hormones and neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the nervous system) needed to reduce brain activity to allow for restful sleep. Tryptophan is an amino acid that’s an important precursor to serotonin, which is then converted into the sleep hormone melatonin. Without sufficient B6, which is necessary for this pathway, the body can’t convert tryptophan to serotonin or support melatonin production. Melatonin is often taken to help with sleep, however, supplementing with B6 instead may negate the need for taking melatonin. GABA (Gamma-amniobutyric acid) is known as the “calming” neurotransmitter and may help relax the brain, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote sleep.

Vitamin B6 is found naturally occurring in many plant and animal foods such as tuna, salmon, poultry, chickpeas, bananas, cantaloupe, and spinach. For children who eat a varied diet, a B6 deficiency is not common, but kids who are vegetarians, extremely picky eaters, on a limited diet, and/or have poor sleep would especially benefit from supplementing with Renzo’s Bright & Brainy B6.

3) Magnesium.

Magnesium is an essential mineral found in many foods that occurs naturally in the body and supports up to 800 physical and mental processes. It has been shown to relax muscles and maintain and regulate GABA, which is helpful for children who have trouble falling asleep and/or wake up frequently during the night. It can also help to keep the stress hormone cortisol at a normal level. Excessive magnesium supplementation can have undesirable effects (like digestive-related symptoms), so always aim to get magnesium through eating foods such as leafy greens, beans, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and whole grains, or try an Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) bath before bed.

4) Overall nutrition.

Kids are usually ready to rise on their own when they have had sufficient quantity and good quality sleep. Having a well-rested kiddo is sure to make those oh-so-crazy mornings a little less crazy. Make sure to include the Renzo’s Picky Eater Multi as part of your kid’s morning routine, along with a healthy breakfast to ensure they are fully nourished for their day of learning.

Kids who skip breakfast are more likely to be irritable, restless, and have shorter attention spans than those who eat breakfast. Always opt for foods with lower sugar and more whole grains combined with a protein source to keep them going all morning long — plain yogurt with fruit and granola or a pre-made egg bake and whole wheat toast are good (and quick) options.

Renzo's Vitamins provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice.

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