Mrs. Simms came into my office complaining that her 7-year-old daughter is wild and out of control. Amy is always touching the other kids and racing around the house, creating a wild and unruly atmosphere for everyone. She is also a picky eater, choosing to only eat dairy, carbs and sweets, all day, every day. At night the child keeps popping out of bed asking for things and waking up the other children. Amy’s body can’t seem to settle down until after 10 pm. Mr. and Mrs. Simms need time for themselves and have no energy or patience at that hour to deal with her insomnia.
Mrs. Simms and I discussed the important role sleep plays in preparing us for our tasks the next day so we can focus and put our energy into what we have to do. It can also help improve our ability to learn. For some children, sleep comes easily at the end of a long, active day. For others, their batteries seem forever charged.
According to the National Institute of Health [NIH] (2012), getting adequate sleep helps protect a person’s mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.
There are two important aspects of sleep: how much a person sleeps and the quality of that sleep. Depending on their age, people require different number of hours of sleep. Here’s a chart with some basic numbers. In general, the required hours of sleep decreases as a person grows older. School-age children need at least 10 hours of sleep, and teens need 9-10 hours. The average adult requires 6-8 hours in order to squeeze the most out of every day.
The Quality of sleep is just as important (if not more) than the number of hours one sleeps. An important factor in having an uninterrupted sleep is what one does before going to bed. This is called sleep hygiene. Good sleep hygiene entails bringing down the excitement and making the environment relaxing.
Here are a few components of sleep hygiene that can be helpful when trying to put your child to sleep:
1. Filling meals. Having a good and filling dinner or a snack before bed can make a person more relaxed and ready to sleep.
2. Rocking or massage. These provide sensations that are calming to the body. Gentle motions and deep pressure can help a child relax which prepares them for sleep.
3. Hemi-sync music. Hemi-Sync is a company that produces neuroscience-based audio recordings to help ease the listener through physical and emotional challenges as well as difficulty falling asleep. You can read my blog post about Hemi-sync and their music for more information.
4. Aromatherapy. Similar to the rocking or massage, certain types of smells can either stimulate or calm the brain. Vanilla, lavender, and banana are prime examples of calming scents. You can put these scents on a pillowcase, on a night stand, or nearby. You can also read my blog post for more information on different scents and aromatherapy.
5. Warm baths. Before bed, give the child a 15-20 minute warm bath, plus a rub down with a towel (if the child likes it). A warm bath calms and relaxes the body, making it easier to fall asleep. Adding 1-2 cups of Epsom salt adds an extra measure of relaxation.
6. No devices before bed. Try to put away or have your child put down any technology devices (ipad, computers, TV, video games, etc.) 1-2 hours before bed. The lit screen and games stimulate their vision and may cause too much excitement which can affect both their ability to fall asleep and the quality of their sleep.
7. Melatonin. Melatonin is a natural hormone that your body produces once the sun sets. It makes you feel less alert and preps the body for sleep. If you’ve tried the other previously listed 6 items on this list with no success, try having your child take ¼ – ½ mg melatonin before bed. For more information, you can read about it through the Sleep Foundation.
8. Bedtime stories. I especially recommend “Children’s Hypnosis Bedtime Stories” by Elaine Martin.
Aside for once-a-week therapy, Mrs. Simms instituted a sleep schedule that included giving Amy a warm bath with Epsom salts, giving her therapeutic massages that I taught her, and finishing up with a cute hypnosis bedtime story told with background music. After only 2 weeks Mrs. Simms noted a significant improvement in all the areas of concern! Amy began falling asleep by 8:30 PM, stayed asleep throughout the night, and was calmer throughout most of the day.
If your child also has difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and regulating her energy levels throughout the day, please try a combination of ideas and post below on the blend that worked! Others will be grateful to read and implement what worked for you.