Apr 25, 2017

Tips for Helping Your Toddler Sleep Soundly

Toddlers require 11 to 14 hours of sleep every day, but the average toddler sleeps 10 hours or less. If your toddler isn't getting enough sleep, then you may be able to help them get the rest they need by modifying their diet, inspecting their mattress and cutting out exposure to electronics before bedtime.

Tip #1: Supplement evening meals with sleep-inducing foods

Many minerals and nutrients found in foods have been proven to facilitate healthy sleep. Calcium and magnesium, for instance, are natural relaxants that can induce drowsiness in the hours leading up to bedtime. Dairy products and nuts contain high amounts of calcium, as do sesame and sunflower seeds, which also contain zinc; zinc deficiency can negatively affect how toddlers sleep. Some foods ― such as leafy greens and bananas ― are good sources of both calcium and magnesium.

Speaking of bananas and leafy greens, they also contain tryptophan, an amino acid that triggers feelings of sleepiness and reduces sleep latency (or the amount of time it takes to fall asleep). Tryptophan is most commonly associated with Thanksgiving turkey, but it is found in a wide range of other foods, including chicken, milk and beans. Tryptophan must compete with other amino acids, some of which increase feelings of alertness and wakefulness. To ensure that tryptophan causes sleepiness, also feed your toddler some whole grains that are rich in carbohydrates. These grains cause the body to produce insulin, a pancreatic hormone that actually helps tryptophan take effect and reduces the impact of other amino acids. Carb-rich whole grain options include bagels, crackers, and pasta.  

Finally, certain fruits are good for your toddlers because they naturally contain melatonin, a hormone produced in the pineal gland of the body that induces sleepiness. In addition to bananas, these include tart cherries, grapes and pineapple. These fruits can serve as a dessert alternative to candies, ice cream, soft drinks and other sweets that contain caffeine, sugar and other substances that cause spikes in energy before bed.

Tip #2: Make sure they're sleeping on the right mattress

Many adult sleepers enjoy the body-contouring, pressure-relieving experience of laying on a mattress made of latex or memory foam. These mattresses are designed to conform to your figure, creating a cradle-like mold in the top surface that helps align your spine and relieve back and shoulder pain. However, these relatively newer mattress models are unsuitable for most toddlers because their bodies are growing and developing so quickly. Sleeping in an impression that's too small for them can lead to discomfort during the night ― often enough to disrupt sleep patterns.

For this reason, a traditional innerspring mattress is considered the best option for growing toddlers. These mattresses have firm, bouncy surfaces that do not conform to the sleeper's body. They also sleep cooler than memory foam or latex mattresses and have been shown to provide strong spinal support for people (such as toddlers) who sleep more than 10 hours per night.    

Tip #3: More Books ― and No Electronics ― Before Bed
Many children ― including toddlers ― enjoy watching television or playing with electronic devices like tablets and smartphones. These gadgets are fine in moderation, but recent studies have found that the 'blue light' they emit can minimize the production of melatonin and trigger feelings of wakefulness at night. To cut down pre-bedtime exposure to blue light, keep these devices out of your toddler's bedroom and be sure to turn the television off at least one hour before they hit the hay. A good alternative: read them a light, bedside story instead.

Guest Author, Ben Murray is a writer and researcher for sleep science hub Tuck Sleep Foundation. He can usually be found running, hiking, biking or kayaking around the Pacific Northwest ― though he enjoys a good nap as much as the next person.

Looking for a fun book to read with your child?

Nosey's Wild Ride on the Belle of Louisville is a story about a steamboat on the Ohio River, the Belle of Louisville. She is the only steamboat in the country built during the Great Steamboat Era (1820s to the 1920s) that is still cruising! A mischievous cat wanders on board the Belle and leads four children on a wild chase all over the boat. This rascal of a cat causes pandemonium wherever he goes. In turn, the children learn what makes a steamboat unique.

Both children and adults will enjoy this historically accurate and highly informative book about one very special steamboat — the Belle of Louisville.

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