Help! I Can’t Get To Sleep! (Sleeping Tips for Children [and Adults!])

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Having Trouble Sleeping? These Natural Tips and Remedies should help remedy the situation. Great for insomnia, getting kids to sleep and waking in the middle of the night.

Any child can have a hard time getting to sleep, but for parents of children with special needs, bedtime can be particularly difficult.

What should be a pretty simple concept of putting a child to bed can become an ongoing series of night upon night of stress and anxiety that makes bedtime a source of nothing that resembles rest at all.

Now, we have not solved all of the sleep problems in our family by any means, but we have learned some things that I hope will be helpful for you, wherever you are along this path of parenthood and whether you have a special needs child or not.  In fact, all of us could use more sleep these days, so read on — no matter your age or your stage :-)!

Trouble Sleeping in Our Home

This has been an ongoing problem that started when our oldest was still an infant.  He would not sleep for any period longer than 30 minutes at a stretch in any given night.  And typically the total amount of sleep that I got was only 5 hours.

I was a zombie.

When that same child was about 6 years old, we would put him to bed only to have him come out over-and-over-and-over again, telling us that he just couldn’t sleep.  And that would go on until midnight or later, when we all finally collapsed.  Not a good recipe for family peace.

I know, most people would just say, “Why don’t you just put him in his room and tell him that he’ll get a punishment for coming out or a reward for staying in.  For us, the anxiety that resulted was simply untenable.

We’ve done a bit of work in this area.  And these days, our son needs someone in the same room with him, but he at least gets to sleep quickly.

So while it is not a perfect situation, we are all getting approximately what we need in the sleep department — and that works for us.

Possible Causes for Trouble Sleeping

1.  Physical Disturbances

Special needs children often have heightened sensitivities.  What might be a non-issue to a typical child might be a “big deal” to a special needs child.  As such, you may need to pay special attention to the physical aspects of your child’s bedroom.

a.  Allergies

It turned out that our son’s frequent wakings were due to food allergies.  When he was nursing, I was eating foods that he was allergic to as a result he had horrible eczema.  Once we had testing done and the foods were eliminated (completely!!), the itching stopped and he slept.

b.  Temperature

Sleeping in a room that is too cold or too hot can cause anyone’s sleep to be disturbed.  Maintaining a comfortable sleeping temperature can be a big help.  Also, cold feet can be a big problem, so if your child’s bedroom is a bit cold, make sure that you try having your child wear socks, in particular, to insure a good night’s sleep.

c.  Noise

Due to their sensitivity, all noises may make it hard for your child to sleep.  A simple fan or air filter can provide white noise to make sleep come more easily.  In our son’s room, we have a simple white noise maker.

2.  Emotional Disturbances

We all know that stress disturbs sleep.  Here are some possible causes and remedies.

a.  Anxiety

Anxiety from all sources can cause problems in slumber-land.  Our son has gotten worked up from many things, but mainly from family stress and frightening reading material.  Reducing how much stress your child is exposed to and limiting exposure to material that may be frightening is a big help.  Even material that may not be ostensibly frightening but can cause mental confusion (like fantasy stories) can be too much for some children to handle.  For obvious reasons, violent and occult media content should be completely avoided.

b. Stimulation

This is one area that, together with anxiety, has been hard for us to curb.  Listening to the stimulating radio music or broadcasts (that means sports for our son), or being on the internet too late at night can cause sleep disruption, including waking too early.

Natural Sleep Aids

Now for the required disclaimer.  I am not a doctor, though I was pre-med in college and devour medical material voraciously.

We have worked with a number of practitioners and have done a lot of research over the years,  and we have found the following recommendations for natural sleep aid to be helpful:

  • Melatonin – We found this to be a real help in our household.  We don’t use a whole capsule; we just open the capsule up, pour it in a container, and give him about 1/10 of the capsule before bed.  (We use Now brand 3 mg capsules.) You can also buy tablets and break them as needed.
  • Magnesium – Magnesium can be taken orally or can be used as a foot or bath soak (in the form of magnesium crystals or epsom salts.
  • GABA- (promotes relaxed state of mind)
  • Valerian – an herb known for sleep-inducing qualities.  Look for a standardized version.
  • Essential Oils- This is an arena that I am just starting to dabble in, but I am finding it to be quite interesting and effective.  So far I have only used Young Living’s Peace & Calming blend, but I plan to try RutaVaLa (includes valerian) next. 

UPDATE:  I currently have been using other oils like DoTerra’s lavender and Vetiver and have been enjoying those.  But since certain oils can work better on some people than on others, I will be continuing to try others as well.  Please read my series on Which Essential Oils Company is Best to see what company I am going to be recommending.  Or if you need to go right to the company, I chose, check out the Best Essential Oils Company.


Of course, for any of the above suggestions, you should consult with a professional health care provider regarding your individual situation.

Other Natural Health Posts:

How about you?  Do you have any techniques that have helped you get more ZZZZZZ’s into your nights?

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Comments

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  1. My parents used to give me a book. They would leave the lights on and I’d ‘read’ myself to sleep and when they went to bed they’d take the book off my face (I’d use it like a mini tent to not see the light)and turn off the light and I’d sleep all night long. Gave me a lifelong love of reading too, I still read before sleeping.

  2. Here are a couple of things that have helped us. We use these things in combination on a regular basis. 1) Hot Milk Toddy: 1 cup warm milk, 1/2 tsp. sweetner, two drops of vanilla or almond flavoring.
    2) Spray or instantly dissolving melatonin. 3) Get up at the same time every day – no matter what time you went to sleep. Experts say going to bed at the same time matters. I’ve found that getting up at the same time every day makes the real difference.

  3. I am so upset I did not have this info when I wrote my July 12 post on sleep deprivation (“If you’re not gettin’ any, it’s all you think about)! You have provided some great information here. As one who suffers from reoccurring insomnia, I appreciate the in-depth look at this topic.

  4. Adrienne – You’re right… I am sure that adrenal fatigue has a great deal to do with it (as does nutritional deficiencies). I started seeing an intuitive healer when my daughter had unexplained allergic reactions and have learned so much about my own health in the process of her healing. I appreciate the links to additional information!

  5. We haven’t had too much of a problem in this area..but have always used calms/calms forte – a natural relaxation aid. Even my mainstream pediatrician agreed it was perfectly safe and healthy!
    Blessings!

  6. lindsay says:

    I love Young Living Oils! They are a necessity at our house. I have a few diffusers and use different oils at certain times of the day. Like I love citrus mid day because it’s so uplifting and I use peace and calming in the evening. They are great!

  7. We also had a child with sleep problems and found out that the issue was food allergies. Identifying the foods and changing his diet has worked wonders.

  8. I am interested in becoming an Independent Distributor for Young Living essential oils, can you please give me more information.

  9. It’s so funny….I have the Peace & Calming blend, but it has the exact opposite effect on my 17-month old. It’s like a shot of sugar or something for her! So, we’ve banned P&C at nighttime. Absolutely not allowed! I’ll check into the melatonin though!

    • Hi April,
      Have you tried Lavender or the Gentle Baby? There is also RutaVaLa blend. They might be better as perhaps your daughter is reacting to the Ylang Ylang in the Peace & Calming. Let me know how the melatonin works!

  10. Melatonin is a staple in my household! Calcium also works when taken right before bed for me.

    Thanks for sharing at the hearth and soul hop.

  11. I LOVE that you mentioned the Peace & Calming blend!! I put some on my son before I read this post. We also use Lavender a lot. Sometimes I’ll use the Tranquil blend on him.

    I LOVE the essential oils. We haven’t had to go to a doctor in 4 years. :)

    • I am so encouraged to hear that. I have just started using the oils. I haven’t tried the Tranquil yet. I am wondering if you would be so kind as to share what diffuser you like. I have never diffused oils and am wondering about which to choose. Thanks!

      • Hi Adrienne,

        I have the old school diffuser. Back when I joined YL I got a 50% off coupon for any diffuser, so I got that one. It’s the one with the glass top (Item 3660 on the products page of Young Living’s website). My friend has the “home” diffuser (item 4468) and she loves it. I’d like to get one when I have enough pennies saved up. ;)

        If you haven’t already I HIGHLY recommend getting a copy of the Essential Oils Desk Reference. It’s my go-to book for everything. There is a much less expensive pocket version of the book. Go here: http://www.lifesciencepublishers.com/
        It’s only $17.95. The big hardbound one is $49.95.

        Oily yours,
        Kirsten

        • There’s also http://www.diffuserworld.com/

          I have 2 pendant personal diffusers I wear. Not both at the same time. My favorite one is a little ceramic heart that Young Living sold last Christmas time. You put a drop of oil on a tiny piece of cotton ball and put it into the top of the heart. I’ll see if I can find something similar online so you can see what it looks like.

  12. Great tips; I use melatonin to sleep and it works wonders! So happy to have found your blog. Have a great night.

  13. Hi,
    I’m wondering about the melatonin. My daughter is 7 and we’ve been giving her 1/2mg melatonin every night since she was 4. It has been a “lifesaver” for helping her sleep. I’m starting to wonder though about long term side effects. I haven’t been able to find anything, and when I do search, some info seems negative about using it. I’ve also had people (average person, not md) tell me you’re only supposed to use it for a short period. Have you come across anything about long term side effects?
    Renee

    • Renee, I have had the same concerns. I have heard from some people that you should take one night off every month. The practitioner whom I am working with now is not concerned about it at all. I am taking about 3 mg daily and she says that as you age it really helps. So it is a curious thing. What have you heard / read? I know that for me, not getting sleep is a huge problem. I wonder if perhaps as my health and my son’s improves if we might be able to stop using it. I am sorry that I don’t have definitive answers for you. One option might be to alternative different sleep aids like melatonin, valerian and magnesium and cut the doses. Just now I looked on the internet and there was one article by Mayo Clinic, but nothing showed up. The next one that looked promising was from Vanderbilt U and they said there were no disconcerting side effects. So I guess we just do what we can and try to learn. O I hope that helps.

  14. Roxanne says:

    Meditation is an important part of my night time routine. I put on my favorite meditation music, guided meditation or listen to anything inspirational until I fall asleep. This can take more than an hour some nights. But, I am not tossing and turning and getting frustrated because I can’t fall asleep. I am doing something useful to help my body and mind relax. You should try it and add it to the list!

  15. Aida Nurzeti says:

    Hi, May I know what diffusers do you use ?
    I need to find one that wont tamper with the essential oils properties.

  16. I read your post on NAM essential oils and are thinking of trying them. Which ones do you recommend for helping my son with ASD to sleep at night?

    • I am thinking the owner would recommend Serenity or Grounding or just plain lavender for starters. Let me know if you need more help. Thanks!

  17. I can’t believe I just discovered your blog! Love it! Stumbled upon it b/c we were researching “the BEST” EOs to buy and use. Having been a sort of rep (only purchased for my own use) for DoTerra – but not liking the $$ anymore – we were looking around for information to make an educated choice – truly enjoyed your post on ALL of that! Whew! But then I started looking around your blog and found SO many other helpful posts! We have a son who struggles with Sensory Processing Issues – so we have done many of the therapies and interventions you mentioned. Have the book you mentioned (plus many, many more) in our arsenal, and have him on a mostly whole food and organic GFCF diet (makes cooking a chemistry class, no?) Add that to the fact that we are Christian home schoolers, and well, there is so much common ground here on your page, I could get lost here for days lol!

    But there IS a question in here, I promise, not just a comment.
    After all of your research into the EOs, have you found anything new that works in helping your son go to sleep? We employee ALL of the other stratgies you mentioned, and have played around with lavender, peace and calming, serenity (all DoTerra), but are looking for something that may work better.
    We have also been giving him Hyland’s Calms Forte and a liquid vitamin that helps with calming just before bedtime – and these things work nicely together most of the time. Just looking for some good EOs to maybe speed the process a bit as I am often still “helping” him to sleep until 10pm – and that makes for a tired mama :-D

    Thanks for all that you do!
    God Bless

    • Hi there -thanks! How old is your son? I so appreciate your kind words.

      Sleep is HUGE. I really need to do another post – I am working on some new things myself and am working w/ a new practitioner for myself and my son. I would be happy to give you her name. I have used lavender and serenity (from Native American) and have thought of purchasing their Grounding. They are changing names so you might have to check what they are using now.

      I am going to start my son on B-6 today and tryptophan. Have you tried those? This is not medical advice – sorry, but I have to say that.

      • thanks so much for responding!
        My son is 9. I would LOVE a new practitioner’s name – we are staved for holistic types where we are :-)
        I was looking at the Grounding as well :-)
        I have done B-6 – but during the day, never thought of it at night – but maybe I mentally throw it in with B-12, and that would be a huge mistake lol! Tryptophan – no! Why did I now think of that?? It could be b/c for a long time we were avoiding turkey – I equated it with turkey. His Dr. at the time said most turkeys are fed diets that included grains to which he is allergic – and that pastured chickens were better b/c they eat very few of those grains naturally. I will definitely look into those suggestions! thanks SO much. Looking forward to your allergen free meal plan ideas too :-) Got hooked on meal planning at kitchenstewardship but need more gf/cf ideas.

        • I was told to do the B6 in the morning. I will have to see what we are doing w/ the tryp. It’s an empty stomach thing.

          I will get moving on the meal plan – busy this week but hopefully soon. I’ll email you.