Monday, August 5, 2013

For the Sleep-deprived Military Parent: Children and Natural Remedies for Poor Sleep

Children and Natural Remedies for Poor Sleep

A while ago I responded to the following question on MSNN (Military Special Needs Network): 

Q:  “Does anyone use melatonin to help your child sleep at night?  At what point did you decide to use it?”


Since this is a question every sleep deprived parent wants an answer to, I wanted to share my response with you here, slightly modified to fit the space in a blog post.  For more on insomnia in adults, see previous blogposts:  Insomnia part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.
A:  Megan's Answer . . .
I do not recommend melatonin
Usually melatonin is recommended for short term use, most commonly when a sleep/wake schedule is off due to switching time zones. Melatonin side effects include daytime sleepiness, dizziness and headaches.   Melatonin can interact with some medications. 
Here is a link to a short article from on melatonin, "Melatonin side effects:  What are the risks?"


Natural remedy#1:  Evening routine
Keeping a bedtime routine regular and starting it about 2 hours before "sleep time" is ideal [not easy, I know].   Keep things quiet like
1.      reading storybooks out loud,
2.      giving your child a back rub or foot massage
3.      evening bathtime

For more on the importance of regular bedtimes and bedtime routines, see this article on the Millennium Cohort study.

Essential Oils and the evening routine
Essential oils in the evening bath or massage lotion (dilute it in grapeseed oil or olive oil) can be helpful but lose their effect over time.   With essential oils, use them for 1-2 months on and 1-2 months off to keep up their good effects.   Common essential oil used for bathtime or massage oil is lavender.  Please see your health care provider for appropriate oil choice and use.

For more natural remedies for sleep, I know of two traditional medicines that do a great job for this and are easy to find out here in the Northwest:

Natural remedy #2:  Naturopathic Medicine
Naturopathic medicine, as practiced by a naturopathic physician (look up "Washington state doh provider credential search" and search for "naturopathic physician" or "NT").  These physicians are trained as primary care providers and often specialize in one or more of the following complementary medicines:  whole foods nutrition, essential oils, homeopathic medicine, physical medicine, or western herbal medicine. 

Natural remedy #3:  Traditional Chinese Medicine 
Traditional Chinese Medicine (acupuncture) as practiced by a nationally board certified (NCCAOM) provider.  For working with children, look for a practitioner who also is trained in Tuina (this is the medicine's version of medical massage) or Acutonics (use of tuning forks to activate the body's innate healing system). Tuina and Acutonics are gentle ways to work with children from birth through adulthood.

To find someone wherever you live in the U.S., go to the National Certification Commission on Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine website and do a "provider search". Search by zip code and then double-check by searching by your town name.

In Washington state, you can again look for an Acupuncturist at the Department of Health website.   The title on the "provider credential search" is "East Asian Medicine Practitioner" or "AC".

See the following related blog post:  How to find an Acupuncturist

Here's a link to a good short explanation of acupuncture treating poor sleep on youtube.

Here is a link to the “consumer guide” on Traditional Chinese medicine. 

For more on what Acutonics is, see this link to "How Sound Healing Works". 

More on Tuina (TCM medical massage),  see the Kids Love Acupuncture website or the Pediatric Tuina cures a variety of childhood ailments article on the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine webpage.

Other sleep website resources that have articles and videos are:
Better Sleep Council  and the
National Sleep Foundation

Well, that's plenty to get you started in your information search.  Peaceful sleep to you and your family!  --Megan

For resources on Insomnia in Adults, read the following blogposts:
Part 1:  Insomnia and TCM
Part 2:  How is your Sleep Hygiene?
Part 3:  Sleep Medications
Part 4:  Sleep Resources
Part 5:  A class for medics

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