Sleep is a restorative state in which the nervous system is relatively inactive, the eyes are closed, the postural muscles are relaxed, and consciousness is suspended.
All sleep is not the same; a period of sleep is comprised of several cycles and stages, some of which are more restorative than others.
To be healthy, the body must sleep for about a third of a 24-hour day.
Children Need More Sleep Than Adults
Children require more sleep than adults because their bodies and brains are in the process of developing language, attention and impulse control.
The adult recommendations are for eight to nine hours, while kids need 10-12, depending upon age.
Having both sides of the brain well-connected helps facilitate and maximize learning, memory, and creativity.
The strength of these brain connections increases as much as 20% while sleeping.
Myelin, which is the fatty layer formed around the neurons important for language, attention and impulse control, also develops during sleep.
Researchers believe that Albert Einstein’s genius was related to the fact that his two hemispheres worked well together.
Lymphatic System in the Brain
What’s more, researchers have recently discovered a lymphatic system in the brain.
This lymphatic system is responsible for cleaning out the cellular “junk” (toxins) in the brain and also for bringing key nutrients to brain cells.
What does this have to do with sleep?
This lymphatic system is largely functional during sleep.
If your child has sleep issues, his or her brain is not able to flush out toxins and other cellular debris.
What Your Doctor May Tell You About Sleep Issues
Doctors may ask if your child has difficulty falling asleep, wakes up during the night, has nightmares or sleeps during the day instead of the night.
Pediatricians often suggest trying one or more of the following:
- No eating or drinking, especially sugar-laden products before bed
- No caffeinated foods or drinks during the day
- No TV, video games or other electronic devices too close to bedtime
- No overstimulation, such as rough-housing, prior to bedtime
- Setting a consistent bedtime with daily rituals prior to turning in
Another Way to Think About Sleep Issues
For the many children who experience both short- and long-term chronic sleep issues, many functional medicine doctors and other integrative health care practitioners look for possible causes.
Here are some to consider:
- Acid reflux, especially hidden reflux, which can worsen when lying down
- Inflammation (anywhere in the body), which can alter brain and hormone chemistry
- An imbalance in neurotransmitters, including serotonin, acetylcholine, GABA and dopamine
- Elevated levels of microorganisms such as yeast, mold, fungus, parasites
- Elevated emotional and psychological stress
- Imbalances in:
- Adrenal cortical hormones
- Adrenal cortex
- Cortisol levels
- Vagus nerve imbalances
- Cranial nerve imbalances
- Overactive sympathetic nervous system
- Too much processed salt and sugar in the diet
- Excitotoxicity reaction from too many glutamates in the diet
- Low levels of lithium orotate
- Toxicity from:
- Heavy metals
- GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) food
- Endocrine disruptors such as:
- Flame retardants
- Electromagnetic smog from wireless devices and electronics
- Blue light from electronic devices in the evening. Blue light suppresses melatonin, the important sleep hormone.
- Lack of full-spectrum sunlight in the daytime
A Sleep Issues Checklist to Start
Many therapies focusing on detoxification, therapies for viruses, bacteria, and heavy metals, dietary interventions, sensory based therapies, and any therapies which improve the immune system will often times improve the quality of sleep in a child as the inflammatory condition decreases.
Speak with your healthcare practitioner about ways to promote healthy sleep:
- Herbs such as:
- Valerian root
- Passion flower
- Kava kava
- Certain essential oils such as lavender
- Bach Flower remedies
- Homeopathics, such as:
- Coffea cruda
- Supplements such as:
- Slow release melatonin (short-term only)
- Vitamin B6 (P5P)
- Calcium citrate
- GABA for the child with high anxiety and aggression or high glutamate
- Over-the counter combinations of these
- Turning off WiFi, cellphones, iPads and removing corded phones from the house
- Reducing night-time blue light exposure
- Increasing daytime sunlight exposure
Order a sleep disorder test kit:
Ask your doctor to contact Neurosciences Laboratory and order the sleep disorder test kit.
Neurosciences Laboratory provides their own individual supplement protocol formulated by them based the test results.
Consider low-dose Naltrexone:
Speak with your healthcare practitioner about low-dose Naltrexone on the skin for children on the autism spectrum.
See a well-trained acupuncturist:
Acupuncture can help relax the body and reduce symptoms of pain.
See a homeopath or naturopath:
Homeopaths and naturopaths can diagnose and treat pain naturally so that the child’s immune, sensory, neurological and nervous systems develop without being compromised.
See a chiropractor:
A chiropractor can perform spinal cord adjustments, which can improve communication in the nervous system and improve sleep.
See a craniosacral or osteopathic practitioner:
Craniosacral and osteopathic therapy can reestablish central nervous system functioning, which can improve sleep
See a neurofeedback or biofeedback practitioner:
Although neurofeedback and biofeedback don’t address the root causes, they can both reduce anxiety and improve sleep.
See a reiki practitioner:
Reiki is a hands-on form of healing that can reestablish energetic balance in the body, thereby potentially improving sleep.