Two Supplements for Longer and more Restful Sleep
It's National Sleep Awareness Week! I love sleep. And when I wake, I wouldn’t mind having more sleep. Apparently scientists agree that sleep is massively important: “Sleep is essential to maintaining normal levels of cognitive skills such as speech, memory, innovative and flexible thinking…it plays a significant role in brain development.”
While sleep is essential to everyone, infants and children need the most sleep as their brains are maturing and developing at a rapid rate, even up until age 25!
Recommended Sleep by Age
Before we talk about the supplements, I think it’s important to state that unless you are practicing methods that help encourage healthy sleep, these supplements will not be a cure all. Some habits I’m referring to would be:
- A bedtime routine
- Adults; read, take a relaxing bath or warm shower, pray, listen to relaxing music, etc.
- Children; warm bath, story time, singing and/or snuggling
- Stop drinking liquids a couple hours before bedtime, so you don’t have to get up and pee
- Set the temperature in your room between 65° and 68° F
- Use white noise or a fan to eliminate distracting sounds
- Use black out curtains or make your room as dark as possible
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon
- Avoid working out in the evening
- Avoid sugary foods and drinks
- Avoid electronics like cell phones, computers or television as much as possible after sundown and at least an hour before bed (or use an app like f.lux to block the blue light from your computer, ipad or iphone)
- Use Orange Glasses after sunset to block blue light from light bulbs and electronics (those suppress melatonin and disrupt circadian rhythm)
- Try a wake-up light, instead of an alarm clock
- Go to bed by 10:00pm
We used Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child to get our daughter into a sleep routine at four-weeks old. She took to it immediately and was sleeping 8 hours a night. By 3-months she was sleeping 12 hours a night. At her 1-year birthday, she was sleeping 13 hours a night. Bless her.
Moving on...because I know you aren’t sick of me talking about this first supplement!
Supplement #1: Cod Liver Oil
I recently heard that Cod Liver Oil (CLO) has been connected to lengthening nighttime sleep in children. Seriously, google it. I’d been giving Sawyer CLO practically out of the womb, so I was curious about the effect on her.
CLO has many benefits since it is a natural source of Omega-3, DHA and Vitamins A and D, so it helps maintain a healthy heart, bones, eyesight, skin and brain development, and apparently now longer sleep periods and greater sleep quality.
I kind of accidentally stumbled into an experiment about the last claim.
Because I had known about many benefits of CLO, I began giving it to our daughter daily at an early age. She’s 22-months old now, and several months ago, I slacked and she only got the oil once a week. Then she got 3 back-to-back viruses. She was uncomfortable and feverish and waking up every 1-3 hours at night for 3 full weeks.
I’m not saying the CLO was or wasn’t responsible for her viruses or lack of sleep at this point, its just what happened. After she recovered, she was sleeping 10-11 hours at night. I thought it was her age and she didn’t need the full 12-hours anymore, but she was noticeably less happy, easily frustrated and extra clingy.
In an effort to get back on track, I made Sawyer a sticker chart to mark her progress on things like Reading, Brushing Teeth, Putting Toys Away, etc. I added a “Vitamins” category mainly so that I would remember to give them to her.
Since doing this, Sawyer has gotten her supplements, including the Cod Liver Oil every day, and guess what? She’s back to 12-hour nights again. Her napping has been more consistent at about 2 hours a day, which puts her in the top bracket of recommended sleep for her age.
Why is Cod Liver Oil linked to sleep?
A recent Oxford University study showed that school children with higher levels of DHA and Omega-3 experienced greater sleep quality than those who didn’t. Since CLO contains high levels of both, you can see the connection, but it doesn't stop there.
CLO also contains Vitamin D, which, subsequently, isn’t a vitamin, it’s a hormone, which we should get from being in the sun. Many, if not most, people including children, are not getting enough time outdoors anymore and are vitamin D deficient, which in turn causes sleep problems like insomnia, sleep apnea, unexplained awakenings to light sleep, excessive body movement during sleep, etc.
Getting proper doses of vitamin D supplements on a regular basis can help with sleep, but here’s the catch, you must take the vitamin D earlier in the day since it temporarily pauses the production of melatonin, therefore disrupting sleep if taken at night.
If CLO contains nutrients that help my child fall asleep, have good quality sleep AND help with the brain development she desperately needs, why wouldn’t I give it to her? Well, it can be tricky to deal with.
The downside is, if you’re not careful, this stuff can wreck havoc on your sense of smell. It starts to stink after its out of the bottle and leaches onto everything it touches. It is almost impossible to get out of clothing, and I hope you don’t ever have to clean out your washing machine of the stench! Click here to read my previous post about my experience getting it out of the tub and my daughter’s hair!
Sawyer can’t swallow pills yet, obviously, so in the meantime, I developed the a method for giving my toddler her CLO. Note: The CLO we use is strawberry flavored and Sawyer has never spit it out, take caution depending on your toddler's spitting situation ;)
The Janny-Method for Administering Cod Liver Oil to a Toddler
- Cod Liver Oil (We’ve had great success with Nordic Naturals Strawberry Flavor or Nordic Naturals Children's DHA Strawberry, but whatever brand you choose, make sure it is molecularly distilled to remove mercury)
- Paper cups (I buy 3 oz. cups like these)
- Kefir or Yogurt or another liquid goodness that your toddler will enjoy
- Paper Towel
- High Chair
- At breakfast or lunch, (at the latest) make sure your toddler is secure in a high chair/booster so they don’t run off with a mouth full of CLO and dive face-first into the couch. Yes, it has happened.
- Tuck the paper towel on toddler as a bib (You want to be able to throw away anything the CLO may dribble on)
- Pour the recommended amount of CLO into one paper cup
- Pour Kefir/Yogurt/Liquid Goodness into another paper cup (I usually double up this one since it weighs more)
- Toddler drinks CLO
- Give Toddler the Kefir/Yogurt immediately following the CLO
- It is given in another paper cup so any remnants of CLO on or in their mouth will be transferred to disposable cups. I take away any other cups or sippies until she’s done
- Throw away all disposable items
As complicated as this might sound, it honestly takes about 60 seconds. Not counting the amount of refills of the yogurt your child may want.
Another method is to simple add cod liver oil to yogurt and mix it in. Sawyer won't take it this way, but other kids might!
Supplement #2: Tart Cherry Juice
Studies show significant sleep improvement in adults suffering from insomnia. Seems like it has lots of promise! You can dilute it with water or another beverage of choice, but my favorite wellness blogger, Katie, created a recipe for Tart Cherry Gummies, adapted below, which are especially helpful and fun for young ones. Since the side effects of this supplement are rather immediate, they should be taken at night.
Tart Cherry Gummies
Adapted from Wellness Mama
- ½ cup tart cherry juice concentrate with 1 ½ cups of water OR 2 cups of plain tart cherry juice (no sugar added)
- ½ cup gelatin powder
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1 teaspoon Vitamin C powder (optional)
- Salt to sprinkle on top (optional)
- In a small saucepan, slowly mix the gelatin powder into the juice/water
- Add the honey
- Turn on low heat and stir as it begins to warm
- Stir for 2-3 minutes or until mixture is smooth and gelatin has dissolved
- Remove from heat and add Vitamin C if using
- Pour into silicon molds (like these or Sawyer's favorite dino molds) or glass baking dish that has been greased with coconut oil
- Place into refrigerator for 2 hours to harden and remove from molds
- Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks
So there you have it. If you, or your family is struggling with sleep give one or both of these a go. Please keep in mind, these will probably not help unless there are also healthy sleep routines already in place such.
Cod Liver Oil should be taken in the morning on a regular basis
The Tart Cherry Juice should be taken in the evening
Happy Sleeping! Zzzzzzz......