Kids Can't Sleep? The Role Of Calcium

Sometimes kids complain that they can’t fall asleep and they are up until 11 or 12 at night.  This can drive parents crazy as it eats into their own downtime, not to mention it can make for a grumpy morning.

But lack of sleep also leads to reduced concentration and ability to learn and can also impair growth and lead to weight gain. Getting kids to fall into a circadian rhythm is important for their hormone balance.  Kids need 10-13 hrs of sleep a night. Our need for sleep reduces as we age.

So what about this “mind racing at night” phenomenon?

Getting enough sleep is often thought of primarily as a hormone regulation issue.  And it is, usually; too much of the hormone cortisol and not enough melatonin are usual suspects when it comes to sleep issues in kids.  Stress, blood sugar and anxiety can also be important players in sleep issues.

But lack of calcium is often an overlooked contributor. Lack of calcium can also lead to that brain-never-shutting-off feeling and prevent your child from falling asleep. 

If your child is up too late at night, here are a few things to try…

  • Add magnesium to the evening ritual. Put it in the bath in the form of epsom salt, or try an oral supplement or a topical spray.  Magnesium is a relaxing mineral in and of itself, but it's also needed to metabolize calcium.  Even if your child is getting enough calcium in the diet, a magnesium deficiency can result in poor absorption of that calcium. 
  • Get more vitamin D in.  My favourite source is cod liver oil, but D drops can also help. My preference is to give a child a D/K2 blend as the two nutrients work together. Both D and K2 contribute to calcium metabolism
  • If you suspect your child is not getting enough calcium in the diet try a liquid calcium supplement in the evening.   Some other signs of calcium deficiency are:  poor bone health, lethargy, finger numbness, poor appetite, muscle cramps. It's always best to consult with a professional when choosing supplements to make sure you get good quality and the right dosage. If you do give your child a calcium supplement, be sure to add in a D/K2 supplement as well to improve absorption.

A few other strategies to help kids sleep…

  • Melatonin is a calming neurotransmitter.  It can be given orally.  Check with your doctor on that one.
  • Make sure the bedroom is dark.  Light interferes with production of melatonin which is needed for sleep.  If your child insists on a nightlight, remove it once they have fallen asleep
  • No TV or electronics 2 hrs before going to bed as the blue light from these devices interferes with melatonin production
  • Low level of B12 is associated with insomnia.  This can be checked by your doctor.

Being unable to fall asleep or stay asleep can be complicated to figure out.  But checking your child’s dietary calcium is a good place to start as getting a good night’s sleep is critical for proper growth and development.

Does your young child stay awake until all hours?  Can't get to sleep? Can't stay asleep? Sleep is part of the Non Negotiable Trifecta for Resilient Health. Learn about the trifecta here.

Also check out the Getting Your Kids To Sleep resource in our Resource Library for more sleep strategies.

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References:

S. Paruthi, “Recommended Amount of Sleep for Pediatric Populations: A Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine,” Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine 12 (June 15, 2016): 785–786

Rachel Leproult and Eve Van Cauter, “Role of Sleep and Sleep Loss in Hormonal Release and Metabolism,” US National Library of Medicine (November 24, 2009)

Dieter Riemann, “Sleep and depression—results from psychobiological studies: an overview,” ScienceDirect 57 (August 2001): 67–103

Jane C. Evans et al, “Sleep and Healing in Intensive Care Settings,” Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing 14 (July/August 1995)

R. Smith, “Recovery and Tissue Repair,” British Medical Bulletin 41 (1985): 295–301

Pierre Maquet, “The Role of Sleep in Learning and Memory,” Science 294 (November 2001): 1048–1052

Giuseppe Curcio et al, “Sleep loss, learning capacity and academic performance,” Sleepmedicine Reviews 10 (October 2006): 323–337

Neeraj K. Gupta et al, “Is obesity associated with poor sleep quality in adolescents?” American Journal of Human Biology 14 (November 2002): 762–768

Roland von Kanel et al, “Poor Sleep is Associated with Higher Plasma Proinflammatory Cytokine Interleukin-6 and Procoagulant Marker Fibrin D-Dimer in Older Caregivers of People with Alzheimer’s Disease, “ Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 54 (March 2006): 431–437

Anne B. Newman et al, “Sleep Disturbance, Psychosocial Correlates, and Cardiovascular Disease in 5201 Older Adults: The Cardiovascular Health Study,” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 45 (January 1997): 1–7

K. Spiegel et al, “Brief communication: sleep curtailment in healthy young men is associated with decreased leptin levels, elevated ghrelin levels and increased hunger and appetite,” Annals of Internal Medicine 141 (December 7, 2004): 846–850

K. Spiegel et al, “Impact of sleep debt on metabolic and endocrine function,” Lancet 354 (1999): 1435–1439

A. N. Vgontzas et al, “Adverse effects of modest sleep restriction on sleepiness, performance, and inflammatory cytokines,” Medscape 89 (2004): 2119–2126

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About Jess Sherman, M.Ed, R.H.N

Jess is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist™ and Family Health Expert, specializing in brain health & resilience for kids. She is the author of Raising Resilience: Take the stress out of feeding your family & love your life, a mother and an advocate for children’s health. Her book and online resources have helped families all over the world improve the lives of their children with learning differences, anxiety, ADHD, autism and mood disorders by fitting the food and feeding piece into their health puzzles. She is the 2019 recipient of the CSNNAA award for Clinical Excellence for her work helping families get healthier, and she continues to work at bringing an understanding of the power of good nutrition to the mainstream conversation about children’s mental health, learning, and overall resilience through her blog, courses and as a  contributor to print and online magazines. You can reach Jess at www.jesssherman.com 

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