Flying In and Out of Sleep
By Dr Paul Shanahan, Chiropractor
Townsville families need more sleep! Whether it’s a baby or a toddler playing monkey tricks or if you have a partner who is away regularly at work, sleep is a keystone of good health. Besides eating healthy, moving your body and choosing healthy environments, getting enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health.
Sleep deprivation is a major cause of weight gain and can lead to heart disease, diabetes, pain and depression. Good sleep allows the body to repair and the brain to rewire. This is how we learn, process and recharge the brain-battery for another day. It’s no wonder that in this lucky country many large companies use fatigue management plans for their employees! Of course, it goes without saying that toddlers naturally do better when they are sleeping well.
With 24/7 operations, heavy machinery, demanding rosters, intensive commutes and disruptive sleep environments, FIFO based working environments were always going to be a recipe for serious fatigue risk in Australian mining. The same could nearly be said of parenting babies and toddlers! Companies can plan around time management, camp design, roster design, individual weight management and organisational culture. What can we do as parents to help our children, with their developing brains, to sleep well?
According to sleep and parenting expert Pinky McKay, toddler sleep can be affected by discomfort, developmental stages and bad dreams. These passing issues tend to get our little ones out of sorts and they lose sleep over it. In the long term, this can impact overall health and wellbeing. Most parents will have heard the advice of a good routine and it is priceless. But what do you do when this is not working?
Speaking to parents at our practice, I have learnt of many innovative, gentle and practical ideas that can work well for all kids to establish a routine and have them settle well to achieve a good night’s rest. Below I share a few with you:
- As we learn from our big kids, having boundaries is great for them! Clearly and precisely define the expectation and boundaries around bedtimes. It is a good tip to have your little one repeat back to you what the rule is.
- Wear them out through the day. Swimming, soccer, yoga or running games are all great here in Townsville.
- Reduce screen time through the day and especially before bed (which is great for their posture also!). Bright screens can overstimulate little minds.
- Introduce a sticker chart for toddlers to reinforce healthy behaviours.
- Audio books and relaxation CD’s can help to settle active minds down as can using lavender massage oils.
- Pop in and out in widening intervals when settling in bed. This can be helpful for little ones who like some reassurance.
To avoid the pitfall of sleep deprivation and the negative effects on downstream health we need to prioritize sleep. There are resources both here in Townsville and in Brisbane that help children and babies learn to sleep. If you prefer a gentle approach, there are many local professionals that offer yoga, massage, nutrition advice and other services. In our practice, we see infants and children with sleeping problems as a result of a difficult birth, digestive issue or injury. Soft tissue massage, mobilisations or gentle chiropractic adjustments can relieve the stress on the child’s spines, leaving their bodies relaxed while sleeping, allowing for a full night’s rest.
If all approaches fail and you need help, ask for it! A good support circle is invaluable. Being a garrison town and having so many FIFO workers, the value of a good support circle cannot be overstated.