Summer is officially here and now that the sun is setting later in the evening, it’s important to check in with our schedules and ensure everyone is still getting enough sleep each night. We need all the rest we can get to enjoy these long and sometimes very hot midsummer days.
Our brain has an internal clock called the circadian rhythm which modulates sleep and wake times. Inside our brains is a very tiny regulator, called the pineal gland which tells us when to go to sleep and when to get up. The pineal gland is the size of a pea and functions to secrete a hormone called melatonin. This hormone serves as nature’s timekeeper and is produced at night beginning around sundown. Melatonin secretion is inhibited by light, which is why summer and other time changes like daylight savings can throw off sleep habits for both you and your children. If for any reason our circadian rhythm becomes out of sync, there are simple lifestyle changes we can make to realign it.
Since Melatonin production happens at night, it’s recommended we sleep in a totally dark room to assist our pineal gland in doing it’s work. For shift workers or individuals suffering from insomnia, there are Melatonin supplements that have been produced from the pineal glands of cows or created in labs through chemical replication. It is sold over the counter in local health food stores, vitamin stores and on Amazon. Many use it in low doses to trigger the internal body clock into responding as if sundown is on its way.
Keep in mind that this method is not recommended for use over long periods of time. It is safe for short term only and is not recommended without first reading about the hormone and its possible side effects. Prior to supplementing with Melatonin, it’s advised to make a visit to a doctor to avoid any complications.
Eliminating coffee. alcohol and any caffeine based foods or drinks from your diet can also help you rest easier. Additionally, there are certain foods which contain melatonin and/or support your body in producing more. Some of these are:
▪ Fennel Seeds
▪ Sunflower Seeds
This list is in no way exhaustive, I’ve chosen the foods that are easy to find and need little to no preparation. You can keep a few almonds on your nightstand, some sunflower seeds in your bag or consider a bowl of oats for breakfast.
Consistency and Environment
One of the most important things you can do to get good sleep is have a consistent nighttime routine. It works for children and infants very well and it works for adults too. Consider placing your cellphone and electronic devices away from where you sleep and try not to fall asleep in front of the television. Remove any unnecessary lights and use a white noise machine if you’re sensitive to sounds.
Prior to getting any sleep ourselves, there’s the job of putting our children to bed.
With small children it can be challenging when the sun is still bright and we’re asking them to go to sleep. Many children will push themselves to stay up despite how tired they are, and can seem wound up and full of energy when really they are beyond exhausted. For this reason black out curtains are an essential tool for most nurseries and children’s rooms.
Routine is also critical with children and babies. It creates an environment where they know what to expect and are more compliant with the process. Most children need 11-13 hours of good sleep during a 24 hour period. If you find that they are not getting enough during the night, it’s important to add a regularly scheduled daytime nap, or two, depending on their age to avoid crankiness and behavior issues.
Another wonderful idea for older children is to explain as simply as possible the difference in seasons and how the sun goes down and comes up at different times depending on the time of year.
A great book that allows you to use your own words to explain the seasons is The Circle of Seasons by Gerda Muller.
If your child is prone to anxiety and restlessness at bedtime, you can consider using homeopathic products to gently calm them down:
Additionally, studies have shown that lavender can be very beneficial in promoting restful sleep.
Below are a few products I use that contain soothing lavender for children and adults: