Could an iron deficiency be the cause of your child’s sleep issues?

How do you picture a child with low iron levels?   You probably imagined a child who is pale and tired. Not a hyperactive child bouncing off the walls having a difficult time sleeping at night.

Well, think again.
Recent studies have revealed a link between childhood hyperactivity and sleep disturbances with low serum ferritin levels. 

What in the world is ferritin? Ferritin is a protein found inside cells. It binds to iron and stores it until the body needs to use it. Measuring ferritin levels is more helpful than measuring iron levels because ferritin levels can be low before symptoms of low iron occur. According to the World Health Organization, a ferritin concentration of less than 30ng/mL in children under 5 years old indicates depleted iron storage.*

Several studies have indicated that children with serum ferritin levels below 45 ng/mL had more disturbed sleep than children with higher levels.*

  • Is your child suffering from disturbed sleep?
  • Are they very active during the day?
  • Are their legs restless and do they wiggle in their bed at night?
  • Are they picky about what they eat?

These symptoms could indicate low ferritin levels.
Chronically disrupted sleep accumulates as sleep debt. Lack of sleep isn’t just a pain in the neck for tired parents. It can also lead to problems with your child’s cognitive functioning and behaviors.

The ferritin blood test is a simple blood draw that can be ordered by your pediatrician. If you are concerned that low iron may be effecting your child’s sleep, talk to your pediatrician right away. This test could be the simple solution to your child’s sleep challenges.

*Resources:
Cortese S, et al. European & Adolescent Child Psychiatry. 2009

Maha K Abou-Khadra, et al. BMC Pediatrics. 2013

http://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/micronutrients/anemia_iron_deficiency/9789241596107_annex2.pdf

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Energy + Feelings.  

  

I love pillow talk with my 9-year old son.  

That bedtime hour when it is time to get tucked in and go to sleep is when my otherwise quiet-guy often turns into a little chatterbox.  

Tonight, was one of those awesome chatterbox nights.

“You know, Mom, you can’t change how someone else is feeling.”

“That’s right, ” I said.

“But, you can change how you react.”

“True, you get to choose how you respond to other people,” I said.

“Well, it sure would help me to know how to react if I knew where they were coming from.”

“What do you mean?” I probed.   (When my little-big guy gets to talking, his words don’t always keep up with his brain. I wasn’t sure where he was going with this.)

“What I’m trying to say is people have energy-feelings and feeling-feelings.”

“Go on,” I probed. (He was really starting to lose me.)

“It’s so hard to put into words, but it’s like this:  Somebody can be feeling like an energy-zero.  That’s like– ‘I am so tired I just want to go to sleep’. But, they can also feel like a feeling-zero.  That is like–‘I am so grumpy, nothing will make me happy.’ But, an energy-five is like–‘I am playing Skylanders, hanging out.’ And, feeling-five is–‘I’m not really thinking about much; not worried, not excited, just being here.”

“So what does a ten look like?”  I asked.

“Weeellll….a ten energy looks like–‘I want to run around the block and do something, I can’t sit still.” (giggling)

“And a ten feeling?”

“Love.  Lots of love.” (big sigh, smiles and head nods)

I asked him if he thought we should talk about our energy and feeling levels more in our family.

“Um…yes.  Definitely.” He replied. “Ya know, sometimes, I do something like, shoot the paper from my straw at Dad’s face and he thinks it’s funny…that’s when he is at an energy ten and feeling ten. But, oooo…if I do it and he is at a zero…not good.”

“So, how would that work?” I wondered out loud.

“Easy, you just have to ask–‘Where are your levels?’ If dad says zero, I know how to act (like don’t blow that straw wrapper at his head) rather than react (like get my electronics taken away for the rest of the week.).”

“Hmmmm…do you think it would be helpful if Mom and Dad told you our “feeling levels”? So, when we are tired or frustrated, we could say, ‘my energy is 2 and my feeling is 3…and you would know to behave and not act squirrelly.”

“Weeellll…that gets complicated, because I have my levels too, you know. But, yeah, it would help to share our levels more.”

I looked at the clock, it was almost 9 o’ clock.

“Oh man,  my feeling is at a 10, but my energy is at a 2,” I told him. “We better get you tucked in.”

“I’m at an energy 3.5, but it’s almost to a 3.  It’s going down.  It was at a 5 a few minutes ago.”

He wiggled under the covers and pulled the blankets over his head like he always does.  I tucked him in and walked out of the room feeling more like a 20 than a 10.  

My heart just swells with love after special little conversations like that with my kiddos.  

Our kids have so much to teach us if we just take the time to listen.

I hope you consider having a dinner conversation with your family about feelings+energy…I know I plan to bring it up over our pasta dish tonight.

Also, I hope you take the time to really listen to your kids.  Life is busy.  Believe me, I know.  I feel like half of the time I am conversing with my kids while cooking or driving or washing dishes, but rarely am I 100% fully present with them.  I am going to be better about that.  If I want my feeling to stay at 20 and my kids’ feeling to be at 20, I need to get my energy to five and do more of “being here” with my family.

5-Steps Towards Getting Your Toddler to Sleep

Hello, Sleep 911.  

Is this an emergency?  

If you are the exhausted parent of a toddler with sleep issues, your answer is–

YES!!!! 

Well, good news, you are at the right place for sleep solutions. I know tired parents don’t want lengthy jargon.  You want answers, so I’ll cut right to the chase.

Here are 5-steps towards fixing your toddler’s sleep issues:

1. Identify how much sleep your kid needs.  

Use this handy-dandy chart to figure it out: You really ought to keep a log of your child’s sleep schedule for at least a few days. You may think they’re getting enough hours, but when you see it on paper, it can be a totally different story.

Here is a sleep log for your convenience:  After you have collected the data for your sleep log, compare it with the recommended daily hours of sleep for your child’s age.

If your child is getting less than the recommended daily amount, your kid is suffering from “sleep debt”…advance to step two.

2. If your kiddo has “sleep debt” then you probably need to put them to bed earlier. 

I know…It seems counterintuitive. When your kid is waking up early in the morning, your first instinct, is to put them to bed later so that they will sleep-in. However, due to REM cycles, and some other sleep mumbo-jumbo (you can read about the details here at The National Sleep Foundation website, if you’re interested), your kid’s sleep is going to be completely out of whack if you keep them up too late.  

One tell-tale sign that your child is staying up too late is a behavior of complete mania and delirium or what I like to call “the point of no return”.

This is the behavior when your kid is so tired, they run around, jump on the bed, and scream or giggle uncontrollably. This is their little body’s way of trying to stay awake when they are completely exhausted.  This. Is. Not. A. Good. Sign. If your child has already reached “the point of no return“…You have some work to do.

I know what you’re thinking now…”How am I supposed to put my kid to sleep earlier when they wake up from nap at 5:00 PM?” Good question!

3. Initiate the Sleep Gap Rule. 
The Sleep Gap Rule is this: your child needs a certain number of hours of active wakefulness between arising in the morning and taking naps.  Plus,  more awake time before going to bed at night. Refer back to the handy-dandy chart to know how much wakey-wakey your kiddo needs.
 

4. Establish a routine.
This means two things.  First, decide on a set bedtime and set naptime. So, you know how many hours of sleep your child needs a day AND you know how many hours they need to be awake between the sleeping times. Now figure out a schedule that works for your family.

WRITE IT DOWN. 

What time is bedtime? 

What time is naptime? 

At what time can your child come out of their room in the morning?

Next, figure out that pre-bedtime routine. How is it going to look each and every time before you put your child to sleep?  Will you read a story, rock-a-bye, or sing a song before putting your child to sleep?

Kids need routines and–trust me–every time they hear that same story, say the prayer, or hear that same song, it will be like turning on a switch, telling their bodies, “it’s time for you to go to sleep.”

5. Just Do it!
This is actually the hardest step. You have done all the work to figure out what your child needs. Now, comes the tough part. It can take weeks and sometimes even months to transition your child to this new sleep routine. Be patient and diligent. I promise. If you stick to the plan. Stay the course and maintain that routine. Your child will become a better sleeper!
Sweet dreams and Happy Napping!