Tuesday, July 10, 2012

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Open Forum ~ Improving Your Child's Sleep - Wake Cycle

Today's Open Forum guest post is graciously written for us by Natan Gendelman, from Health In Motion Rehabilitation, a clinic that works with children with special needs. You can find their blog, Enabled Kids, here. Y'all show the bloggy love for our guest, and feel free to comment below the post with any questions you might have for her. As with all Open Forum posts, the views and opinions in the following article do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of  Living with Logan. Open Forum posts are never edited by Living with Logan.

Improving your child’s sleep-wake cycle

Sleep is a crucial factor in a child’s development, health, and lifestyle. It’s important to understand your child and notice how he functions through the day, what activities he engages in, and his daily sleep patterns. This becomes especially important when looking at a child that has a serious condition such as epilepsy. In doing so, you can help him eliminate activities which can affect his sleep, and thus decrease the likelihood of him experiencing seizures or other serious health problems.

A biological look into things

In order to recognize why making these changes are necessary we first must look at how the body functions. All our bodily processes follow a certain schedule (circadian rhythm).The body’s circadian rhythm responds to the lightness and darkness of an individual’s environment. It affects our sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, body temperature and other bodily functions. If a child doesn’t get enough rest, it may disrupt his sleep-wake cycle and cause seizures to occur.

A bit of fresh air goes a long way

To avoid this issue, a child should have a regimen that is set in stone, from his sleeping and eating habits to his playtime schedule. This should include exposure to sunlight and as much fresh air as possible. When a child is exposed to light the brain begins to perform functions such as increasing body temperature, releasing stimulating hormones, and other processes which cause him to feel sleepy or awake. It is for these reasons that a child should follow a routine that includes playtime outdoors and sleeping at a reasonable hour.

Avoid over-stimulating the senses

As the day passes and the sun begins to set, it is also important to avoid anything that over-stimulates the senses before bedtime, such as lights that flash brightly, watching television, playing video or computer games, or working on a computer. Playing interactive video games significantly increases a child’s heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate. These effects will hinder him from following his sleep schedule, as he will take longer to fall asleep and thus will disturb his sleep-wake cycle. If a child engages in activities that over-stimulate the senses, it is best for it to occur earlier in the day in order for his heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate to have enough time to return to normal.

Mealtime is key

Finally, another important aspect to pay attention to is a child’s mealtime. His eating habits and routine greatly impact sleep cycles. In order for a child to properly digest food, the largest meal of the day should be consumed in the morning and the lightest should occur 4 hours before going to sleep. Try to avoid heavy meals late at night and stayaway from junk foods. This will ensure that your child will not experience indigestion, restlessness, and problems sleeping.

As we mentioned before, getting enough sleep is a big key point in any child’s life. For a child who has seizures, it is even more crucial; therefore, it’s important to understand your child and explore what impacts his individual sleep-wake cycle. By understanding your child’s needs, you will be able to accommodate him whether by getting him into bed no later than 9 pm and getting him up in the normal hours of the morning, reading a book to relax him, or even removing a dim nightlight that may be preventing him from sleeping. In this way, you will be able to improve his health, happiness and overall well-being.

If you have any questions, comments or experiences to share about your child and his sleep-wake cycle, leave me a comment down below or join our forum discussion. Thanks everyone!

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