Sleep Coach’s Corner: Is There an Iron and Sleep Connection?

Today we’re taking a dive into research. More specifically, the correlation between iron levels and restless baby sleep. So, if you have a restless sleeper and nothing you’ve tried seems to work, read on.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, nor do I claim to be one. The content in this blog is from a trusted authority but is speculative in nature.

Restless baby

In my decade as a sleep consultant, I’ve fielded hundreds of questions from tired parents. However, when parents come to me with a restless baby, I’m the one asking lots of questions. The reason why I ask so many questions is to help determine whether baby sleep or toddler sleep issues are because of dependency on a sleep prop or if there’s something else at work. (If you’re unfamiliar with the term sleep prop, it’s used to describe something a baby or toddler depends on to fall asleep, such as a pacifier, rocking, or breastfeeding.)

Sleep prop dependency is relatively easy to overcome and can usually be solved within a week or two of consistent bedtime routines. In fact, the majority of restless sleepers are traced back to sleep props causing disruption. However, every once in a while, I come across a restless baby sleep case without props to blame. Some babies and toddlers are just restless sleepers, just like children and adults who flail, toss, and turn in their sleep. This is where speculation comes in, so bear with me.

Sleep research

Yes, there’s such a thing as the World Sleep Congress. The World Sleep Congress is an annual gathering organized by the World Sleep Society, where researchers and scientists across the globe come to share research and studies on everything relating to sleep. And in 2019, I heard musings about a theory – scientists posit that there is a correlation between iron deficiency and restless sleep.

In fact, there are studies showing a correlation between iron deficiency and restless sleep in children dating back to 1969. You may already be familiar with Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS); perhaps you or someone in your family has RLS. If you’re reading this because your little one is a restless sleeper, they may suffer from periodic limb movements and involuntary movements during sleep.

Mayo Clinic linked RLS in children to a family history of the syndrome and iron deficiency in a 2005 study. And circling back to the 1969 study, researchers found that periodic limb movement lessened in 19 of 28 patients after receiving a serum containing iron. 

So, back to those restless sleepers. If you’ve got a restless baby, and nothing has worked to help them get a solid night of sleep, the research indicates that it may be worth asking your pediatrician to test iron levels. 

And, if you’re one of the many parents out there with a baby who is reliant on a sleep prop, or you simply need help coming up with a nap and bedtime schedule that works for your family, I’m here to help! Schedule your complimentary sleep assessment today!

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