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Friday, August 6, 2010

How to Improve Your Sleep

My youngest child had severe sleep issues for about a year, from the time she was only a few months old. As a result, and in desperation, I sought help from all the research I could find. This led to my pinpointing her lactose intolerance, and once we eliminated milk products from her diet, her sleep greatly improved. However, the poor kid didn't know how to fall asleep on her own at night or take naps, so I had to painstakingly teach her these things. I did so largely with the help of Mary Sheedy Kurcinka's book, which I mentioned in my last sleep post. It took us months, but eventually my daughter learned how to fall asleep on her own and sleep all night, and even--at long last--to take a nap each afternoon. It was a miracle! But it took education, diligence, and work, in addition to all the fervent prayer.

I also learned that all the things I gleaned from this experience could be applied to my preschooler and even to myself.

So here is a list of 5 basic things I learned that help a lot:

  1. Dimming the lighting one hour before bedtime and not allowing any energetic activities in that time leading up to bed.
  2. For the sensitive (which my youngest is), no TV (or computer time) 3 hours before bedtime: It tricks the brain into thinking it's full daylight, instead of time for the melatonin level to start increasing.
  3. Exercising! Daytime exercise can make a big difference--even for a little toddler--but it should be finished about 3 hours before bedtime.
  4. Keeping a consistent wake time is just as important as keeping a consistent bedtime--even on the weekends. (This one was so hard for me to learn because there's something in me that protests against waking a sleeping child! And though my older child doesn't need this, my younger one did for a long time because if I let her sleep in too long in the morning she didn't want to nap later, and then she was too overtired to sleep well at night.)
  5. "Sleep begets sleep." I can't emphasize this enough, as I've seen it over and over again. Until recently, if my youngest took a good nap during the day, she would sleep much better at night, so that nap was crucial for keeping us on track.

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