Why Won’t My Child Sleep?!

Simple answers help us as parents truly understand what is going on inside of our child’s brain. An inability to sleep happens when our child’s brain is unable to shut down and move to a mode called REM sleep. REM sleep is that deep sleep that allows our brain to heal our body and charge up for the next day!

A fifth of the American population has issues falling asleep. When health challenges are focused on a specific region of the world it is clear that something in their environment is causing the trouble. When we look at sleep problems we can start at the brain and how the home environment affects the ability to calm down.

What happened to my child’s brain?

  • Screen time – electronics cause a release similar to that of cocaine in your child’s brain. When your child watches tv you are literally allowing your child to “get high”. Have you ever noticed your child gets angry or frustrated when you take electronics away from them?
  • Chemicals – ranging from food dyes, preservatives, cleaning products, and yes… even sugar. Nothing is more potent to the brain than a concentrated chemical stimulant. Why do you think medicine works so well?
  • Fast Paced Routine – our body has an awesome ability to tell time when our fast paced lifestyles are in check. If we do not take time to wind down with quiet for hours before bed our kids brains are still in GO mode. How can we expect a little kid to calm down immediately if we’ve spent the day winding them up?
  • Lack of Exercise – when the body does not use up energy (especially in our kids) then the brain is just itching for more stimulation. Your child’s brain needs stimulation from movement and if it doesn’t happen the brain craves it. Kids are at all different levels of need for movement so figure out what they need and give it to them daily! What happens when a dog gets cooped up all day?
  • Lack of Thinking – similar to exercise the brain needs to be working throughout the day. After a child has spent a lot of time engaging in solving puzzles, problems, and discovery their brain needs rest. Have you ever noticed that when your child is bored they get into EVERYTHING!!!?
  • Sensory Overload – Remember that there are 5 senses we learn in school. A day full of activity can overload your child’s brain. Keep in mind that this effect can last days if they are sensitive. Also, if a room has smells that are too strong or stimulating, too much light, or stimulating sounds it can be difficult to shut the brain off. The brain is always ready to engage.
  • A Spine Problem – Even if all of the environmental factors are perfect, if their brain senses a spine problem it is going to be on high alert. Kids really cannot tell you if they have this issue so getting your child’s spine checked at your pediatric chiropractor is key! The spine only affects the brain’s ability to control the entire body! Does your child need a specific gentle adjustment?

What types of things to be careful of…

  • Medications – talk to your medical doctor if this is an option you wish to pursue. But know that many medications for sleep are highly addictive and with any other chemical we put in our body, it affects the entire body, not just sleep. So carefully read the “side” effects.
  • Melatonin – though very effective for many people, and even some people have a deficiency in melatonin production, few people realize that this is a hormone. Long term supplementation with a hormone ‘jacks up’ all the other hormones your brain uses to regulate your body. Does that sound good?
  • Supplements – generally seen as a safe alternative to medications, we need to be careful of what we are giving our kids. A concentrated form of anything needs to be understood and dealt with using caution and respect. Consult a professional when dealing with supplements and don’t just take a friend’s word for it. If it is helpful find a professional that regularly uses the supplement to help you understand how it works and what a good dose is.
  • Eating A Ton Before Bed – we all rest well after a good Thanksgiving meal, right? That is usually because we are so full it’s not healthy to move a lot. Our body is busy using all of our energy and blood to digest food. Falling asleep now actually slows this process down. Do you want your child to have food sit in their stomach ALL night?

It’s all about changing your child’s environment to suit their needs. If your kids struggle with resting it’s time to rethink how much stimulation and what types they get. Our bodies are made to rest and heal so they will naturally progress to better sleepers as new routines are put in place. You got this! If you have questions as always please feel free to reach out to us at Radiant Life.


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