Have you given thought to

  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Pain, or
  • Expressive Ability

as conditions that could disturb sleep?

What about:

  • Omega 3 Status,
  • Blood Sugar Balance
  • and Core body temperature as variables in allowing your child to stay asleep.

Sleep Whisperer Deepa Kannan talks to us about 15 factors that can affect a child’s sleep. Bring a notebook and take notes.



Audio Transcription:

Hi there, welcome to functional nutrition and learning for kids a short, packed Podcast where we explore how to address the most important core issues that affect our children with disability. I invite Sarathy your host and I believe that we are here to nourish our children not fixed and what can be more nourishing than sleep? And what can be more disturbing than disturbed sleep? I’m literally talking to you after one sleepless night fueled by apnea and perhaps some low blood sugar that I missed. My son woke up at 2am today and couldn’t fall back asleep. And for my fellow non sleepers, whether your parents or disabled folk, listen on to deeper cannon the sleep whisperer.

Today, I’m super excited to welcome for the second time the power cannon on our podcast. The PA has been a yoga therapist for over two decades and a functional nutrition, nutritionist for five. She brings together her experience in therapeutic and transformation in yoga, and deep learning in nutrition based on the principles of functional medicine, to a practice phyto thrive.

Now, her focus is on merging together the deep signs of the functional world with the deep symbolism of ancient wisdom. She has a masterful understanding of the human anatomy with a cohesive understanding of physiology to offer what can be classified as true bio individual mind, body and spirit nutrition. People has a son with a rare adrenal condition and this has given her deep insight into the workings of the adrenals and the stress response as it relates to all health and sleep. Her articles have been shared by Dr. Mark Hyman twice. Her niche is in sleep, and she has a podcast also. And this is the sleep whisperer podcast. Welcome back. Deepa, I’m super excited to chat about all sleep issues with you. Thanks, Rajesh. And I always enjoy our conversation.

I think it just goes on and on. So maybe I need to be conscious about time this time. Now that you’re the expert on all things sleep I’ve been waiting to, you know, discuss this with somebody. So I’m really glad to have this opportunity. Can we just jump in and talk about the causes of sleep disturbance of any sort that you encounter most often, I usually like to differentiate sleep challenges into at least two broad categories, and one is the difficulty falling asleep. And the other is difficulty staying asleep. So have difficulty falling asleep is usually called sleep onset insomnia, and difficulty staying asleep through the night is usually called Sleep maintenance insomnia. And that too, can vary dramatically in terms of root causes. And as you know, through the principles of functional medicine, it’s all about getting to the roots.

I’ve actually as a broad framework, I’m working on 10 system, approach of root causes to poor sleep. And even in our conversation today, I’m actually going to talk in terms of those 710 systems. sleep onset first maybe because after all falling asleep, it all begins with the ability to fall asleep and why it was so interesting that just yesterday in my sleep whisperer community on Facebook, there was somebody who shared that my husband tells me that I don’t know how to fall asleep.

I can’t even comprehend what does he mean by that because I lie down and I’m sleeping. But this is a lot of people struggle with their ability to fall asleep. And I think it’s a lot more in the children population, especially if a child has a disability. So there’s definitely going to be plenty of reasons why the child may not fall asleep. So maybe we can go through that 10 points which I spoke about. And then after that, we can move on to sleep maintenance insomnia. Does that sound okay for you? Yes, absolutely. So the I’m definitely in the same criterion where I just lie down, and I’m asleep. But however, that is not the case for the rest of my family. Yeah, Santa.

It was never the case for me as well. Rajesh. And I still, I must say that having good sleep is a continuous journey. So for somebody who has the innate tendency to struggle with sleep, whether it’s falling asleep or staying asleep, it’s not going to be that they’re gonna hit that perfect destination and then everything’s going to be fine. So that’s the first thing that people need to know Stan and Parents also need to understand if their child is struggling to sleep, that they’re not gonna hit that perfect goal after which everything is fine. So it’s about understanding that this is going to be a journey.

You can see how best can you understand root causes and triggers in each individual. And there’s gonna be different permutations and combinations in each individual. And then how do you piece that all together and actually create this beautiful map or a guide for that person on how to improve their quality of sleep? Both falling and staying asleep? Yeah, so when it comes to falling asleep, and I’m gonna, actually, there are 10 points for this. So I’m gonna race through them. So please interrupt me and pause me, wherever you have something to ask me or otherwise, I’ll just keep going through them quickly. Okay, so the first root cause, especially for children is stimulation.

When we’re talking about stimulation, it’s not just about disrupted circadian rhythm through lights, which is, of course, a very big trigger. So if it’s coming from video games, phones, and as you know why we’ve seen a lot of parents who stick that iPad or the phone and put on shows, so that the child will eat.Very common practice. So if you’re gonna start the day with artificial lights, the child is going to actually stay in that loop of wanting that stimulation the entire day. And that’s going to actually impact their ability to fall asleep. And that’s all the more critical in situations or conditions like ADHD, and where stimulation can really be a very big problem. And just be a light issue, but just a neurotransmitter issue where you’re just stimulating your brain and you’re hitting, hitting your, you know, Pentagon with too much light at the wrong time. So all sorts of things from the stimulation. Absolutely. And the other thing why, which I’ve noticed is that, because children I saw aware today of gadgets and using them and parents need not always supervise and children, sometimes no way more than parents.

One of the things that I’ve observed is that the children tend to keep the backlight of devices device, like an iPad on at the highest level. Oh, yeah, yeah, you actually don’t need that. So the eyes are getting trained into staying with that kind of brightness. So then when you actually cut the light later, they feel that something’s wrong because they’ve trained their brain to expect that level of light. So stimulation is a very big deal when it comes to falling asleep.

That starts from the time they wake up, right. Point number two is really about adrenal health. Now, you know that I don’t do if somebody doesn’t know what is disrupted adrenal rhythm where cortisol is spiking at nighttime, I don’t really want to say go test cortisol, because that’s not what this is about. But overall, if you find that you or your child has difficulty falling asleep at night, and you’re kind of waking up and buzzing at that tower, that’s a sign that adrenal function is a bit on an overactive mode. And there are several reasons for this.

First of all, what is their stress? Now it comes to stress, there is a stressor. So what are the stressors for that child? So are you intuitive enough to pick up that stress? Right, and many other things can disrupt the adrenal function of which high sugar diet deficiencies in many nutrients, but we can come to that later. And more than anything, loud sound so again, if you’re watching a device and keeping the sound on very, very high, that’s a big problem. It’s going to research why she has shown that more than anything else. Sounds disrupt the adrenal function in the biggest way. So if you had sent me but like, I think, I mean, all of our kids sit and watch all of these literally what we call high adrenaline shows, right? So I mean, like anything from any sort of a contest to you know, all sorts of adventure sports, I mean, Even just watching an adventure sport, it can be a high adrenaline activity, not that it shouldn’t be done.

I’m just saying that I can see how it how the sounds and the excitement can impact at different times who Absolutely, in fact, it’s so common even to see adults who say, I go to bed and then I can’t fall asleep for hours. And then you ask them, What are they doing? They say, No, I don’t watch television. I just read a book. So what book are you reading? And then it’s the murder thriller or something like that, where you’re just staying in that state of suspense. So you’re just triggering the fight or flight response, which is, again, an overactive adrenal function.

I imagine how video games might do this to just another level completely. Oh, absolutely. So I think for me, when it comes to adrenal overdrive, I would put down loud sounds as the biggest trigger and by fuel also know, for example, if you went to an all night party one night where the music is really, really loud, you will find that it takes you about a week to settle adrenal function, it just spikes into overdrive. So sounds so dumb, because I don’t go to parties deeper. But I mean, the point is that people should do a sound audit of their child’s life or their life in sleep and not falling asleep through the day. What are the big, big sounds they’re exposed to? Are people shouting in the house all the time? Maybe parents are fighting very, very loudly. Anything. So sound audit is great.

Just figuring out what are your disturbing sounds? I love that, yes, I number three for difficulty falling asleep as the brain is overactive and can’t wind down and there’s so many reasons for this, of course, adrenal function is some of it. But here, I am not going into too much of detail, all I wanna say is one of the things that I’ve found really effective for this is aromatherapy because the olfactory bulb is in the same area of the brain as the limbic brain. So and I know many say that it doesn’t work but I found consistency is the key. So whether you’re sprinkling it in the shower or on the pillow, so obviously children may not sit down and smell that but just sprinkle it around them on the pillow and that’s great to come down the emotion as well.

The other point four is do they feel soothed? This has a lot to do with how the quality of connections they are in their life. So are they having a situation in the house where everything feels safe for are they in a situation where the as I said maybe parents fighting so do they feel so good enough because if you don’t feel safe and soothe then you just can’t fall asleep and there was somebody who I recorded a podcast with who said something so beautifully. Stacy Robbins and she said that if you don’t trust you can’t rest so that’s really really important. Now point number five is nutrients is the diet spiking blood sugar.

This is a very big deal as you know, most people struggle with sleep if you look at their diet, they’ll say no, I’m not eating sugar and then the whole plate is just screaming of sugar. So really looking at is the diet balanced at all and usually when it comes to sleep, nutrient sufficiency, I speak about four nutrients and that’s tryptophan, magnesium zinc and vitamin B six. So if you can get tryptophan Of course you will get from carbohydrates, rice, sweet potatoes, so if someone’s struggling with sleep, I think they do well with a little bit of that in the night. Otherwise, making sure that there’s enough magnesium and vice we I know you and I discuss how magnesium doesn’t work for everybody but here’s where I want to differentiate when I say sleep nutrients.

I’m talking about getting magnesium from foods so like leafy greens, I’m not talking about actual supplementation.Yes. So you said tryptophan, magnesium iron and B six correct not zinc can be xinxing know that A lot of people are deficient in zinc. So really checking whether you’re getting optimal zinc. And if you’re having a diet that’s low in zinc, then that’s one of the nutrients, I would advise that there be supplementation because it makes a big difference to sleep. There’s a huge connection between zinc deficiency and poor sleep. And these are nutrients that are also indicated in you know, so many overlapping childhood conditions, including, you know, focusing energy and picky eating and so on. Right?

Correct. Absolutely. So they’re the four key nutrients for better sleep. Now, point number six is poor detoxification. And you know, how many people especially children, especially children with disabilities, have issues with poor gut health and poor D detoxification. And the reason that impacts sleep negatively is that it? It causes poor metabolism of cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, which is adrenaline. So then you’re gonna stay in that state of spiking up at night, because you’re carrying the scatter cola means and then you can’t actually wind down at all.

It’s very important to see is the person have does the person have the ability to detoxify optimally? Right? Um, then point number seven is the age so is a child who’s struggling with sleep is it the age of puberty and hormonal fluctuations, because that really can trigger sleep, insomnia, especially when it comes to falling asleep. So the age is a very big factor. And I don’t know about you why ish. But I see a lot of children today not having movement or exercise. So that’s a big deal for me, because point number eight is all about movement and limp stagnation can impact sleep very in such a big way. And why somebody falls asleep easily after any form of exercises that exercise initially raises core body temperature, and then subsequently the body drops core body temperature, and you need low core body temperature to fall asleep.

It’s very important that this movement Okay, So point number nine is pain so many times with children we we need to preempt we need to prompt are they feeling any pain, any discomfort, because pain is a big reason for why somebody cannot fall asleep. So if the child is able to communicate, then for sure, just asking questions, and every child can have pain related to just growth, as growth plates suddenly increase, but then that can be pain associated with several reasons for coming from lack of exercise or lack of blood circulation. And simply because they’re sitting a lot. And that’s even more evident today, as children are switching into a virtual learning situation. So they’re not really moving around. So pain can be a very big factor. And the 10th point, of course, it’s more symbolic, are they able to express themselves. So usually, if somebody is not able to speak what’s on their mind is set to be a connection between falling asleep, because emotions are held inside. So definitely finding some way to get that released. So it can just be getting them to take part in a drama class or anything where it’s not that they need to speak about what’s on their mind, but just getting them to express.

That’s a wonderful point, actually. And that’s something that is extremely relevant to many children with autism that have speaking challenges, probably many children with any disability that have issues with expressive speech. So yeah, so I don’t have that many points for for staying asleep because they’re a little different. And some of them of course, will overlap.

I was trying to fit that I think that probably everything can overlap in some category or the other right to almost every one of these things which are a little different. So when it comes to why somebody can fall asleep, or maybe they wake up two hours later, four hours later So one of the biggest reasons for this is as you know, the body moves through five stages of sleep in one night repeatedly, there’s non REM phase 1234, and then rem and then the body keeps going to these stages. And whenever So stage one and two are considered light sleep three and four are very deep sleep where restoration happens. And REM sleep is where you’re almost physiologically or like to what you are when you’re awake. So if somebody moves through these lighter phases of sleep, and there is some disturbance, they can wake up. So first of all, checking whether the room is free of disturbance, trying to keep the room pitch dark right through the night, seeing that there aren’t any sounds. So minimizing the disturbances so that any nothing can impact them in the light phase of sleep.

Then the second point is, of course, blood sugar swings, because as you know, cortisol has a tendency to start going up in the middle of the night in preparation to wake you up. And if you’ve eaten a high sugar diet the previous night, then, as the sugar starts to fall in your sleep, then cortisol will spike and it will wake you up at 2am. So usually, when somebody wakes up between two and 4am, it’s a classic blood sugar swing with nighttime cortisol spike. And the third point is support glymphatic moment why she did. So glim system is in the brain and the brain detoxifies in the night.

If you’re not having deep sleep, or moving through deep stages of sleep, that’s the time if somebody is prone to poor glymphatic movement, they’re gonna wake up in the middle of the night with stuffy sinus. So feeling very congested, and usually will be way more than it is during the day, as the brain attempts to detoxify that, but then they’re waking up stuffy, unable to breathe. So they’re breathing through the mouth. And as you know, mouth breathing is associated with poor quality of sleep. Right? That’s a very big deal. So somebody said that, because I don’t think we have, you know, we talked enough about drainage and glymphatic movement in the context of sleep, and especially sleep apnea, because I think that what you’re talking could become a structural, not a structural physical blockage to breathing.

Exactly. And did you know that mouth breathing is also associated with predisposition towards developing learning challenges? So there is because mouth breathing is so common, you know, in, in many children with Down syndrome, but also with in, in a lot in a lot of children that have any sort of sleep apnea? Yes, absolutely. So I found for this kind of an issue of not being able to maintain sleep due to poor glymphatic movement, two things go into it in a very big way. One is for omega three status. And the second is that the person doesn’t have movement at all, of course, and cutting out dairy becomes a very big deal in this kind of situation. Omega three is actually very deeply linked to sleep maintenance more than even the ability to fall asleep.

I love that you brought in a tool right away. Yes, yes. And yeah, and so many of these, like, as, as we wrap up in our last few minutes of the conversation, I think we should bring bring everything to a few common threads that you know, that people can use as tools to address so many of these because as you as you and I know, and the way we work is that you know, everything comes back to connectivity.

Exactly. I just have three more points and absolutely one of the biggest reasons for the inability to maintain sleep is having water the wrong way. So stop keeping yourself parched right through the day and then guzzling down water in the evening because thirst is so the high then obviously logistically are gonna wake up you’re not going to be able to maintain sleep because you simply need to visit the loop. So that tactical thing but that has to be attended to and then core body temperature as I mentioned before, called below core body temperatures required both to fall asleep and to stay asleep.

If somebody is bathing in very hot water, drinking water Very cold drinks with a lot of eyes, all of this disrupts core body temperature. So even with children, we often tend to think about hot flashes by only in terms of menopausal women. But that’s really not the case even children. And that’s why in the Eastern tradition, there was the custom of the weekly oil massage because it dropped core body temperature. And so that’s a big deal because it is associated with poor sleep. And the last point for if you cannot maintain sleep is restless legs, which as you know, many, people even children can have. And that’s usually a sign of magnesium deficiency, but you and I spoke how magnesium supplementation can impact could be, what did you say a reason for sleep apnea? Is that what you’re talking about reflux? And you know, just like over calming some muscles, and also sleep apnea? Yes, we were not just reflux, but we were talking about the what I think we were talking about the breathing passages as well. So the tongue flopping back and too much relaxation, but we know that it still it still can help a majority of kids I just I think just be careful with supplementation. And these are such I mean, they’re there’s so many points and they are so you know really rich in information. And also rich in simplicity, if I can say that because I mean, these are points that parents can easily readily you can just write these things down just if you haven’t done that yet go back to the beginning of this podcast and write down the 10 points that the pet talked about that help you know fall asleep and what might prevent you from staying asleep and this is such an easy thing to just check off and if you had to you know as we wrap up the pie if you had to bring it back to do a few basics or to a few connecting threads what how would you you know, bring this together.

Well I think your choice starts with the diet again, you would have heard me say on the previous time I was here fat fiber protein colors, the mantra on every plate or having three different colors on the plate is a must along with adequate fat protein and some high quality carbohydrate as I said tryptophan so getting some sweet potatoes some dark rice and polished rice something like that. Not keeping out all carbohydrates I think that’s very important a lot of people struggle with sleep, both falling asleep and staying asleep and they suddenly go to these diets which remove all carbohydrates so very important have a balanced meal because poor sleep is like anything else that you first need to heal that and as you know sleep is the first primary thing you need to bring into order before you can even look at the deeper symptoms and condition you need to restore sleep before looking deeper so that’s definitely important and seeing that include those nutrients I spoke about magnesium zinc basics back to nutrients and we’re coming back to basic you know nutrients that that are so dependent on an anti inflammatory diet we’re coming back to functional movement because you talked many times about you know, how you know there is movement there is pain and even expression can be through movement right so many things can be related to movement and we Yeah, and even if you gave the movement is functional, perhaps it takes care of your lymphatic or lymphatic drainage as well. Yes. And as I said, the very important is core body temperature it does seem that you keep the body cool and not overheat the body by I know a lot of parents get get their child even babies to bathe in boiling hot water. And that’s very that’s very, very harmful. Yes, yes. Thank you so much the pad.

This was a very information rich session, I’m sure I mean, I myself, I’m going to look at the points that you talked about staying asleep because my son has a lot of issues staying asleep. But thanks for coming on. And, you know, for this incredibly generous list of points that you’ve given us. Thank you why it was an absolute pleasure.

I love this podcast because it all comes down to the mantra backitup nourish don’t fix find your low hanging fruit before you go. For example low oxalate. See if you can move. See if you can bring in nutrients from foods. See if you can allow you to Time to move. Allow your child to express enable your child to express and address our core non negotiables. Thank you so much for listening and if this podcast made you happy, run, don’t stop to iTunes or wherever you’re listening and drop a review right now. I am waiting as are others to find this information. Bye bye see you next week.