Are Your Pets Keeping You Awake?

Pets_Post_4-15-16My dog snores. People don’t often think about pets as a potential source of sleep disturbance. I will never forget a patient that I had several years ago that had headaches and problems sleeping. I asked all of the typical questions about her sleep hygiene and habits but nothing stood out, until my patient volunteered, “I think it’s my pig”. I looked up from my computer and asked her to repeat what she had said. She said again, “I think it’s my pig”. She then proceeded to take out her cell phone and show me a picture of her pet potbelly pig. My patient’s pig wasn’t exactly Wilbur-sized, but was almost as big as she was! It turns out that the pig slept in the bed with her and the pig kept her up all night by kicking her in his sleep. My patient’s pig had periodic limb movements! My solution for her sleep problems: remove the pig from her bed!

Snoring dogs and kicking pigs are just a few of the pet-related issues that may interfere with your sleep. How many of you have cats that love nothing more than to walk across your face as you lay in bed? And if you think hamster wheels are annoying during the day, try listening to them at 2:00 in the morning. Birds chirp sometimes even with the cage covered. Fish tanks, while wonderful to look at, can provide enough of a glow in the bedroom to disrupt sleep. Also, consider the neighbor’s barking dog and the rooster that crows in the middle of the night. How about a patient that I had recently that was disturbed because his pet tarantula did not eat all of the crickets he put in her cage and the chirping was driving him crazy??!! Pets can also serve as sources of allergens that may also cause symptoms that interfere with sleep.

The pets in your home are an important part of your medical history to share with your care provider. Our pets are part of our families and should be included as part of the environmental assessment. By volunteering information about the pig in your bed, you will be able to provide a more comprehensive picture that will help to develop your plan of treatment.

Ten Reasons Why Parents Should Evaluate Their Child’s Sleep


  1. Good sleep helps your child to do well in school

Children who are tired cannot concentrate and focus well in school. A good night’s sleep may help your child’s grades improve.

  1. Good sleep helps to improve your child’s behavior

Sleepy children may misbehave, have more emotional meltdowns, and be more easily irritated.

  1. Good sleep helps to keep your child’s weight under control

Poor sleep contributes to obesity. Too many of the hormones that contribute to weight gain are released when you don’t sleep well. Also, lack of sleep provides more opportunities to snack!

  1. Good sleep helps to keep your child’s chronic illnesses under control

Studies show that asthma, diabetes, seizures, and other chronic problems can worsen in children who do not sleep well.

  1. Good sleep helps to promote your child’s growth and development

Growth hormones are released during sleep. A good night’s sleep helps your child to be more alert and able to learn new skills.

  1. Poor sleep may look like ADHD or other behavior problems in children

Sleepy children may show signs of ADHD and have other behavior problems. Also, children with ADHD often have problems sleeping.

  1. One child with poor sleep can be disruptive to the entire family

When one child does not sleep well, often parents do not sleep well. Other siblings in the home may also be affected by an overly active, noisy environment at night.

  1. Poor sleep leads to missed days from work and school

Sleepy children have been shown to have increased tardiness to school and to miss more days from school. This affects the ability of parents to get to work and to be productive once there.

  1. Poor sleep can cause dental problems in your child

Children who are mouth breathers or tooth grinders can develop problems with their teeth over time.

  1. Good sleep is essential for your child’s health and well-being

A good night’s sleep is critical for the health of your child’s body, but also helps to promote feelings of wellness and good self-esteem.

The Food Factor – How To Eat To Promote A Good Night’s Sleep

LW_food_post_3-16-16March 6th marks the beginning of Sleep Awareness week in the United States. And, you can bet, if a health issue has an entire week dedicated to awareness, such as Sleep does, then there may possibly be an epidemic of sleep issues in our country!

Sleep is such an important part of a person’s overall well being that just one sleepless night can affect how you or your child function in daily life. Many habits and environmental factors can contribute to a poor nights sleep. I am here to discuss one important element in achieving a fully restorative night of sleep, and that is Food!

If you were a child that grew up in the 70’s through the 90’s you may have heard the phrase “You are what you eat…” In fact, I remember a little song that would come on between Saturday morning cartoons that sang “You are what you eat from your head down to your feet!” (Here it is on youtube! Share it with your child….kind of catchy, yes?)

It was a message that was meant to bring awareness to children, of how the foods we eat affect every cell in our body. It is ironic that at this same time in the 70’s, food manufacturers started coming up with more ways to preserve and cheapen prepackaged foods. Coincidentally, there was also a rise in fast food chains. The chemical additives, loads of sugar, fats and oils that are consumed from these sources are big contributors to a multitude of health issues that correlate to a poor nights sleep. In just three decades in the United States we have developed a disconnect, between food and it’s role, in either promoting good health, or its ability to create sickness and, yes, even effect your sleep! This lack of food/health awareness is understandable due to the heavy marketing and accessibility of prepackaged, cheap fast food. It is all about awareness, of what and how you eat.

Once you are in awareness that FOOD has a MAJOR role in whether you or your child has a restful, restorative night of sleep, you can begin to implement simple changes. Here are some helpful things to think about when eating for a good nights sleep that can also influence you and your families overall health:

  • Start to think of food as fuel for your mind and body rather than just something to quench your hunger. Do you want your fuel to be high octane, as what is used in a high performance vehicle? Or low octane fuel that makes your vehicle backfire and blow a lot of smelly smoke? (Once this is done, it becomes easier to prepare meals that contain whole foods *)
  • Eat your final meal 3 hours before bedtime in order to allow the body to digest the food properly and prepare for rest ( i.e. 6 pm meal for 9:00 pm bedtime)
  • Avoid sugars and sweeteners. This spikes blood glucose levels and makes excess energy available in the body = A RESTLESS BODY and OVERACTIVE BRAIN
  • Avoid caffeine in coffee, sweet / unsweet tea, and dark chocolate
  • Avoid Spicy food which can lead to heartburn as well as increase your core body temperature which is linked to poor sleep
  • Avoid Alcohol- It may put you to sleep quickly, but it will negatively affect the amount of time spent in the REM state of the sleep cycle which is partially responsible for the restoration of the mind and body.
  • Drink plenty of water during the day, but cut off two hours before bed to minimize sleep interruption due to a full bladder



Natural, unprocessed food is the original medicine and therefore there are nutrients (Vitamins and Minerals) in certain foods that can help promote sleep. Magnesium is an important mineral that helps your brain and muscles relax. Although you may think it is easier to take Magnesium in a pill, the body will absorb and receive all vitamins and minerals better when consumed from natural sources. You can consume Magnesium in dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, bananas, plain non-fat yogurt, avocados, fish, and beans. Planning dinner and dessert around these foods will help signal the body to relax and sleep.

All diseases, and or health challenges, contain certain aspects, which can be overcome by the improvement in one’s diet. Making just a few of these changes may be the key too not only improving one’s sleep, but also one’s overall health and wellbeing.


Lorie Ward

* Whole Foods = Mostly plant based (raw, steamed, lightly sautéed vegetables) unrefined whole grain (brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat breads and pasta) with a smaller portion of lean meats (Turkey breast, skinless chicken breast, fish.)

Welcome To Our New Blog

Welcome to the new blog for Emerald Coast Pediatric Sleep Consultants! The purpose of this site is to inform parents, children, and health providers about healthy sleep and lifestyle habits that promote restful, restorative sleep.

At Emerald Coast Pediatric Sleep Consultants we believe that sleep impacts all aspects of a child’s health. Also, things in a child’s lifestyle directly impact their ability to sleep well. On this site there will be information about pediatric sleep disorders and methods to treat common sleeping problems in children. We will have articles about how to eat healthy, stress reduction, exercise, and relaxation techniques that can be used with the whole family.

My name is Sonia Smith. I am the owner and clinician at Emerald Coast Pediatric Sleep Consultants. I have been a pediatric nurse for 30 years and have been a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner for 25 years. I have experience in primary care, pulmonology, emergency medicine, and neurology. I have been involved in the field of pediatric sleep medicine since 2010. I will receive my Doctor of Nursing Practice degree in May, 2016. I will be blogging on topics related to sleep medicine and sleep training for children.

I am very proud to have several guest bloggers who are experts in their fields who have offered to share their wisdom with you. Lorie Ward is a Certified Health Coach and will be blogging on nutrition and exercise topics related to sleep. Her goals are to help people improve their lifestyle choices to possibly reduce their need for medicine. Her areas of interest include food-healing, growing and preparing organic foods, and fitness.

Bree Conklin is a certified psychotherapist who will share with you topics about managing anxiety, stress, and behavior. Finally, Mary Dawn McRae is certified in Applied Behavior Analysis – a specialized approach to the treatment of behavior problems in children. We are grateful for their time and expertise.

We encourage you to check out our other multimedia sites for additional information and timely tips about sleep. The web site is Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest as well! We look forward to helping to improve your child’s sleep!