don't miss out on THE chance to help your family thrive!
We believe proper nutrition is one of the most important gifts we can give our kids. We do that by maximizing the amount of nutrient-dense food they eat and minimizing all of the artificial ingredients, seed oils, excess sugar, and additional chemicals in their food. We talk about this a lot.
But just as important as nutrition (and some experts even argue it is more important) is sleep.
Many studies have shown that kids who get an adequate amount of sleep on a regular basis have:
- Improved attention
- Improved behavior
- Improved learning
- Improved memory
- Improved mental health
- Improved physical health
Not enough sleep can contribute to:
- High blood pressure
- Behavioral problems
- And more
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:
- Infants: 12 to 16 hours of sleep
- Children Ages 1 to 2: 11 to 14 hours of sleep
- Children Ages 3 to 5: 10 to 13 hours of sleep
- Children Ages 6 to 12: 9 to 12 hours of sleep
- Teenagers Ages 13 to 18: 8 to 10 hours of sleep
Quality sleep is associated with many, many benefits for kids (keep reading)! Whereas, insufficient sleep can result in decreased brain development, learning problems, and more frequently negative emotions. Sleep & nutrition go hand in hand! The better your nutrition the better your sleep and the better your sleep, the better your health.
Why should you make sleep a priority?
Growth & Development
Sleep is the single biggest factor that affects human growth hormone (HGH). This is a hormone that stimulates and facilitates the growth of bones, muscles, nerves, and more. It’s a critical component in the healthy growth of children.
In a study looking at children with deficient levels of HGH, researchers found that children with deficient levels of HGH slept less deeply than children with an average level of HGH. A deficiency in HGH can lead to impaired immune systems as well as a weak heart and lungs.
When we sleep, our bodies produce cytokines. These are proteins that help our body fight infection, stress, and illness. Research shows that when we don’t get enough sleep, it reduces the amount of cytokines, making it harder for our bodies to ward off infections. Conversely, when we get adequate sleep, we help protect our bodies from infection, illness, and stress.
A 2009 study looking at children between the ages of 5 and 6 years old found that children that got less than 9 hours of sleep each day had a 3 to 5 times higher chance of developing behavioral problems. This is because, according to expert Dr. Dean Bebbe, “inadequate sleep causes specific changes in mood and thinking.”
He explained that inadequate sleep causes people to be biased toward seeing the world in a more negative light. Additionally, inadequate sleep causes children to have problems regulating the ups and downs in their moods, leading to a more rapid negative reaction to a relatively minor event. Additionally, according to Dr. Bebbe, “Children who don’t get enough sleep also don’t pay attention as well, are less likely to think before they act, and don’t seem able to solve problems as well.
Research shows that if your child gets less than 10 hours of sleep at night before the age of 3 they are 3 times as likely to have hyperactivity and impulsivity problems by the time they are 6 years old.
Unlike adults, who are often drowsy or sluggish after little sleep, children often develop behavioral and attention problems. They may even be misdiagnosed with ADHD.
In fact, a study done back in 2012 suggested a link between ADHD and children who were getting inadequate sleep. The research followed 11,000 children starting at age 6 months for 6 years. The children who had inadequate sleep, defined by length and quality, were 40% to 100% more likely to develop behavioral problems that resemble ADHD. According to Judith Owens, who is the director of sleep medicine at Children’s National Medical Center, “the symptoms of sleep deprivation and ADHD, including impulsivity and distractibility, mirror each other almost exactly.”
Sleep researchers often talk about the power of sleep as it relates to learning something new. Once you learn something, one of the best gifts you can give yourself is a good night of sleep to cement what you have learned. Studies have shown that newborn babies learn in their sleep, so the importance of sleep starts as soon as the baby is born.
Neuroscientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst studied preschoolers. They taught them a memory game and then tested in the afternoon on multiple days under two separate conditions: one day, the group had an afternoon nap of 1 hour or greater. The other day, the group had no nap. On the days with no naps, the children forgot almost 15% of what they had learned. On the nap days, the children remembered everything they learned hours before. They also learned that the more consistently the naps happened (5 plus days a week) the more the children improved their recall after sleep.
The research shows that kids that have inadequate or disrupted sleep are more likely to develop depression and anxiety later in life. The lead researcher Candice Alfano states, “Healthy sleep is critical for children’s psychological well-being. Continually experiencing inadequate sleep can eventually lead to depression, anxiety and other types of emotional problems. Parents, therefore, need to think about sleep as an essential component of overall health in the same way they do nutrition, dental hygiene, and physical activity. If a child has problems waking up in the morning or is sleepy during the day, then their nighttime sleep is probably inadequate. This can result for several reasons, such as a bedtime that is too late, non-restful sleep during the night, or an inconsistent sleep schedule.”
Is there a link between nutrition and sleep?
Absolutely! And it’s a strong link, too. Proper nutrition provides the body with a broad range of vitamins and minerals that enable all of our body systems to function properly. Growing research indicates that sufficient nutrient consumption is extremely important for sleep. One study showed that when you lack key vitamins and minerals, such as: calcium, magnesium, vitamins A, C, D, E, and K, you have a higher likelihood of having sleep problems.
Other research shows that diets high in carbohydrates can increase the number of awakenings during the night and reduce the amount of deep sleep we get each night.
Conversely, another study shows that a Mediterranean diet, high in plants, high-fiber foods, and lean meats can improve sleep quality.
The bottom line is that nutrient-dense foods complement your sleep.
Of course, it’s a symbiotic relationship in that sleep also affects nutrition. Another study shows that insufficient sleep has been associated with an increased risk of obesity and greater waist circumference.
This is likely due to the fact that people who don’t get enough sleep are far more likely to eat more, without exerting any extra energy. Additionally, the food consumed is less likely to be nutrient dense and therefore more likely to cause weight gain.
The science points to our hormones, specifically the hormones that make us feel hungry or satiated. Even after short periods of inadequate sleep, these hormones (leptin and ghrelin) are disrupted.
So, what do we do?
There are lots of tips and tricks to aid in better sleep. Most sleep experts, including sleep researcher Dr, Matthew Walker, say that a consistent routine is one of the BEST things you can give your child.
Find a bedtime routine that works for you—such as a warm bath, a book, and a cuddle—and then stick to it as much as you possibly can!! Life sprinkles in special occasions, vacations, and one-off exceptions. Give yourself some grace there. That said, try to provide a consistent bedtime and routine for your kids as much as you can, even on the weekends.
Do you have a bedtime routine for your kids and what does it look like?
We definitely love a routine and see the benefits of it. I try to follow it as strictly as possible. My 6 year old and 8 year old share a bedroom, so they have a similar routine. We have a separate routine for our 2.5 year old.
6 & 8 year old: 7:30pm Bedtime. We start with that time and work backwards.
- 6:50pm: Shower and brush teeth
- 7:00pm: In the bedroom, we set it up to be cooler, dim the lights, and turn on the sound machine on so there are no distractions outside of their room.
- Read books together (20 minutes)
- Prayer/gratitude (5 min)
- Light back massage and “I love you’s” (5 min)
- Lights out
- Note: my 8 year old reads with a book light for about 30 minutes or so and then I go up and tuck him in at 8:00pm
2.5 year old: 6pm or 7pm Bedtime (depending if she naps). We start with that time and work backwards.
- 45 minutes before bedtime, we give her a bath and brush teeth.
- In the bedroom,we set it up to be cooler, dim the lights, and turn on the sound machine on so there are no distractions outside of their room.
- Read books (20 minutes)
- Snuggle in rocking chair (5 min)
- Singing a couple songs and “I love you’s” (5 min)
- Lights out
Sleep is imperative to the well-being of the entire family.
We all know that when we don’t sleep well, we feel it the next day. Our kids may not be able to communicate it, but they feel it too. And if their sleep is disrupted at night, often, we are the first to know, because it disrupts our sleep, too. Teaching your children the importance of sleep, prioritizing it as a family, and giving your kid the tools to set them up for their best chance at good sleep is a gamechanger for the whole family.
Are there snacks before bed that promote better sleep for my kids?
The science is mixed here. Some will say that a heavy meal can interfere with quality sleep, especially falling asleep. That said, if you eat an early dinner and your child is hungry, an empty belly may disturb them from falling asleep.
A light snack of one of the following foods may help your child fall asleep:
My SuperHero Sleep is now available for pre-order!
check out our amazing pre-order perks!
Ethan and Sophie are back for another adventure-filled day to help your kids understand the power of quality sleep.
Through Ethan and Sophie, your kids will learn how sleep helps their bodies, minds, emotions, creativity, and more! They’ll learn the importance of a clean room, morning sunlight, and a gratitude practice on their sleep. They’ll learn routines and exercises to help them relax and fall back asleep in the middle of the night. Backed by science and research, My SuperHero Sleep will help develop your kids’ curiosities about the powers of sleep, making them excited to go to sleep every night!