Babies, Toddlers + Children
You tuck them in, kiss them goodnight and imagine they will sleep through the night. Only to find them tossing and turning all night and getting out of bed saying the dreaded, “Mommy I can’t sleep”. You may think they are playing games to try and sneak their way into staying up later, but what if they legitimately can’t sleep.
There are many different contributors that can be lurking behind their poor sleep habits, and if you pinpoint which is keeping your little one awake, you just may have some solid z’s in your future.
I have compiled a list of amazing sleep aids for you and I will explain how each one works, and who can have it. I will also do an overview of top reasons keeping little ones awake. These will be categorized by age group, as each have their own sleep aids and possible reasons for not sleeping. If you stick with me, I will include a free printable chart for foods that help promote sleep.
Before we get into the lists;
First, we need to know a little more about sleep itself, and how the body makes it happen. We spend nearly 1/3 of our lives asleep, so maybe we should know a thing or two about it. Two things you should know about sleep involve Melatonin and Cortisol.
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the brain that helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm (our 24hr clock). When it gets dark our brain releases more and more Melatonin as a preparation for sleep, which makes us feel drowsy. The levels of Melatonin drop as the sun rises, or light comes in.
Cortisol levels rise as the sun rises, or light is introduced causing you to wake up.
Both Melatonin and Cortisol can be found in our diets. We will use this information to solve sleep issues.
Natural Sleep Aids for every age
It’s important to know that babies wake up for a wide variety of reasons from simple to complex. Mostly they wake out of discomfort.
What may be waking them
- Sugar sensitivity
- Trusty nightlight
- Napped too long
- Hidden caffeine + sugar
- Scratched by untrimmed nails
- Colic? Discuss with M.D.
- Diaper rash/infection
- Coming down with a cold
- Lavender (bath, lotion, scent)
- Gas Drops
- Goodnight Milk (packaged)
- Limit and watch for sugar and caffeine
- Adequate naps + downtime
- Feed if you suspect hunger + evaluate if they are ready for more food during the day
- Room temperature control
Foods that aid sleep
- Milk- any dairy really (yogurt, cheese. Etc.)
- Tart cherries or cherry juice
- Kale + spinach
See my chart for how these foods help and natural sleep aids ⇑
Toddlers are very similar with babies for waking culprits. Though, in this stage they have more options for relief. Though at this stage, they may begin to experience nightmares. In the case of nightmares, just provide re-assurance.
What they can have on top of the babies list
- Honey (ask pediatrician first)
- Chamomile (diluted + weak)
- Melatonin meds are available as well, though I do air on the side of caution. Please consult an M.D. first.
Bear in mind, the most natural and effective way to get your little ones to sleep is maintaining a routine. When you start to utilize sleep aids too often your child will gain dependence on them, finding it hard to fall asleep without them. In turn perpetuating the problem further.
If you have a solid routine and they are still waking, evaluate the cause. If it’s easily remedied, i.e. gas relief drops for gas pains or Orajel for Teething pain then go ahead and treat the cause.
Of course, if nothing seems to be helping, and you feel like you’ve tried everything, schedule a consult with your child’s pediatrician for them to better assess the problem.
The Older Child
Trouble sleeping affects all ages and the older child may have some added causes, most commonly overlooked.
- Stress: let’s face it between school, homework, chores, sports, friends, societal pressures and simply being at an age where your understanding much more, realizing things you can’t quite understand and plain old curiosity and body changes they have a lot more to be stressed about than we give credit for.
- Over teched: too much screen time. The light, especially glaring artificial light causes Cortisol levels to rise, which not only stimulate our brains to wake but in excess can lead to stress, irritability, depression, etc.
- Hormones: fluctuations in hormones leading to puberty can throw off their normal sleep balance.
- Underlying health condition: consult pediatrician if suspected
You can help with
- Simple reassurances
- Tech limits
- Sincere talks (listen, don’t judge, be helpful)
- Loss of focus
- Heart conditions
- Weight gain
Foods that elevate Cortisol (Avoid/Limit)
- Trans fat
- Vegetable + seed oils
- Fruit juice (also high in sugar)
- Refined sugars
- Low fiber carbs
- Some yogurts
Of course, getting your littles ones to sleep doesn’t always require aids, the most effective way to establish better sleep even for the most stubborn children is to get them on a routine. I have two posts that are complete guides to setting routines please check them out with the following links…
Wishing you and your little ones a great night’s sleep. Hope this was helpful.
Know of any sleep aids that have proven helpful? Comment below…
Natural Sleep Aids
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