Sleep and Children

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Sleep and Children
by Tom and Julie Meekins

All children struggle with sleep at one time or another. Sometimes the problem stems from something seemingly unrelated. Since we at March Forth Family are all about getting to the bottom of a thing, let's take a look at some potential root causes that could be keeping our kids from getting the restorative sleep that they need. And then, most importantly, we will give you some tools and tips of practical and doable what to do about it steps. Here we go:

Potential root causes and doable action steps for sleep issues:

1. lights -Quote from the National Sleep Foundation -- "Melatonin is a natural hormone made by your body's pineal (pih-knee-uhl) gland. This is a pea-sized gland located just above the middle of the brain. During the day the pineal is inactive. When the sun goes down and darkness occurs, the pineal is "turned on" by the SCN and begins to actively produce melatonin, which is released into the blood. Usually, this occurs around 9 pm. (side note: we are thinking this is different for children but we wanted you to get a feel for what happens with natural melatonin in the body) As a result, melatonin levels in the blood rise sharply and you begin to feel less alert. Sleep becomes more inviting. Melatonin levels in the blood stay elevated for about 12 hours - all through the night - before the light of a new day when they fall back to low daytime levels by about 9 am. Daytime levels of melatonin are barely detectable.

Besides adjusting the timing of the clock, bright light has another effect. It directly inhibits the release of melatonin. That is why melatonin is sometimes called the "Dracula of hormones" - it only comes out in the dark. Even if the pineal gland is switched "on" by the clock, it will not produce melatonin unless the person is in a dimly lit environment. In addition to sunlight, artificial indoor lighting can be bright enough to prevent the release of melatonin."

What can I do about it?
Based on the understanding of how natural melatonin is supposed to work in the body, and also based on our own personal experience, we suggest:
a) that children get plenty of light during the day,
b) as bedtime approaches expose our children (and ourselves) to less light.
c) Along with that, we want to help our children to be able to go to sleep and stay asleep in the dark. A darkened room will help with your child's sleep.

2. hyperactivity - Does your child have a difficult time slowing down and calming enough to keep still? This would make getting to sleep a little tough. The reasons for hyperactivity can be plentiful. We have many things in our toolbelt to get to the root cause of hyperactivity and often teach these in our webinars. In this article, we will give you two very helpful tools to address hyperactivity in general and which will bring calmness to the child to help with sleep.

What can I do about it?
a) Arm and Leg Squeezes (fingers and toes, too). Deeply massage all four limbs and the fingers and toes several times a day. Squeeze just below the pain threshold. You don’t want it to hurt but you want them to feel it and every child is different in how they feel it. So you will have to experiment with your child. This can also eliminate bedwetting. Most children LOVE this activity. Some children have to get used to it at first but then they begin to request their squeezy time and look forward to it. If you have a highly active child, do this at least six times a day for two minutes. If you have a mildly active child, twice a day for two minutes ought to do the trick.
b) Rub with Textures - Very lightly massage with a variety of different kinds of fabrics, i.e. scratchy bath glove, soft lamb's wool, silk, cotton, etc. With the glove, put it on your hand and lightly rub. Alternate the different fabrics as well as the glove to lightly rub over all four limbs of your child, the torso, the places that are bothered by tags (back of the neck), and the feet if they prove to be sensitive areas. We recommend at least twice a day for three minutes each time.

3. overactive or wrong thinking - Sleep can become an issue for our children when they have an overactive mind. Our daughter often says "my mind just keeps going and going and going". Our children can also have wrong information in their minds that create an atmosphere that keeps them from getting to sleep and then from sleeping well.

What can I do about it?
Use the principles and tips in this blog post to create digital recordings for your child:   This particular blog post is about perfectionism but you can use this tool for any kind of information you want your child to have. Find out what is keeping your child's mind so active and give them calming thoughts in the recordings about those things. As far as wrong thinking is concerned, find out what they are thinking and combat that wrong idea with truth following the example in the blog.

4. certain foods - foods that have artificial ingredients and especially food dyes have been known to create an environment in the body that makes it difficult for children to calm. Too much sugar has also been known to wreak havoc on a child's system leaving them unable to get to sleep in a reasonable amount of time and to sleep well. Even healthy foods can be a problem for a child. Here is a list of dyes, preservatives, and additives that could be creating a problem for your child in terms of behavior and sleep:

What can I do about it?
a. be a food label reader and know about food dyes and additives and preservatives and avoid them.
b. keep a food diary to see if your child is especially sensitive to certain foods. Sometimes the effect of the dye, preservative, or additive is not immediate. A food diary and corresponding diary of behavior struggles may show you an enlightening pattern.
c. watch the sugar content of the foods your children are eating

5. routine - children thrive on routine. They love a schedule they can hang their hat on. A bedtime routine can make all the difference in the world in getting the message to a child that it is time to slow down and prepare for sleep.

What can I do about it?

Create a cozy bedtime routine that includes:
a. brushing teeth
b. putting on pjs
c. soft lights
d. calm activity
(i.e.reading a book to them or the child quietly looking at books)
e) massage (arm and leg squeezes) and rub with textures

(see described under hyperactivity)

We hope these tips and action steps will help to give your child the sleep he or she needs. If you need extra help with:

*overactive minds and/or wrong thinking in the mind
*helping to establish routines

email us at or contact us on our website at

and ask about our coaching. We are here to support and serve you!

Tom and Julie Meekins


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