The SANE Approach to Sleep

by Anne Buckley Reen, OTR/L

Most of us take a good night’s sleep for granted. For many children and adults however, lack of sleep severely inhibits their ability to function and experience positive emotional states and good health. The SANE approach facilitates change through restorative Sleep, Activities to reduce stress, balanced Nutrition, and nurturing Environments.

Sleep is essential. A biologically restorative state of consciousness, sleep replenishes the body on all levels: cellular, endocrine, immune, metabolic, physical and emotional. It repairs and restores major organs and brain chemicals needed for coping, memory and attention.

Activity. Stress depletes our coping chemistry, throwing the entire nervous system out of balance, and thus disrupting sleep. Children who are stressed require strategies and consistent routines to help calm mind and body. Physical and breathing exercises both balance brain chemistry. A 10-minute walk or slow jog, and deep breathing, especially in the morning and mid-day, are powerful regulators and reduce arousal.

A sleep hygiene program, including routines and a set schedule, beginning sleep 30 minutes before lights out, are essential for all children, but especially for children with issues. Following this routine at the same time every night, most parents report significant changes in 1-2 weeks.

Nutrition. In order to fall asleep, stay asleep and sleep restoratively, the body requires certain nutrients. According to DDR Professional Advisory Board member, Sidney Baker, MD, protein and B vitamins, especially at breakfast and lunch, are key to influencing the brain‘s ability to achieve a deep restorative sleep 12 hours later. Diets high in sugar and other stimulants (chocolate, caffeine) will inhibit sleep (New Developments 8:2, 7.) Save these treats for special occasions; never eat them after 4 pm. Check also for side effects of medications which very often interfere with sleep cycles. If necessary, you can use supplements to calm the body and ready it for sleep. (See New Developments 5:1,6.)

Environments. Environmental factors including space, structure, sounds and light can both positively and negatively affect sleep. Adjusting the energy flow in children’s bedrooms, according to feng shui principles, was the subject of an earlier article (New Developments 7:2, 6.) For children who need lights on to fall asleep, get a dimmer switch and turn lights all the way out, once they are asleep. Any light on in the night will stimulate the pineal gland and inhibit production of sleep hormone.

Music with a 60 beat per minute tempo can help to calm to body and mind and regulate the child who is out of balance. Try two great CDs: "Baby-go-to-Sleep Heartbeat Lullabies Stops CryingBaby Go To Sleep" (birth to 7) and "Ocean Surf: Timeless and SublimeThe Surf" (all ages.) Played throughout the night on repeat mode the music enhances regulation of the sleep cycles. Absence of sleep can produce a variety of disorders and influence behavioral and attention problems.

A foundation for all function, sleep is a necessary starting point for getting our children "in balance." Good night!

Anne Buckley Reen is a pediatric occupational therapist and President of OT For Kids. She can be reached at 718-318-1180. She lectures nationally with Debra Dickson, PT.

[Initially published in New Developments: Volume 8, Number 2 - Winter, 2002-2003]

All material in this web site is given for information purposes only and is not to be substituted for advice from your health care provider.

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