Kids and Sleep

By Nicole Maxwell, NMD

Sleep problems affect 20-30% of children and in many cases it can be addressed with naturopathic care.

Symptoms of insomnia include:

  • Sleep problems – difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep or waking up too early in the morning.
  • Tension/worry about going to bed and being able to fall asleep.
  • Being sleepy during the day.
  • School or disciplinary problems.
  • Irritability/mood swings.
  • Depression.
  • Hyperactivity.
  • Decreased attention span.
  • Aggression.
  • Memory problems.
  • Making errors or having accidents.

One issue is if we expect the child to be sleeping more than they need to or if they are in their bed longer than needed.  Reduce the sleep window to match the sleep needs to alleviate this possible bedtime struggle.  

How much sleep does each age group ideally need?

  • Preschoolers (3-5yo): 10-13 hours, no less than 8 and no more than 14.
  • School-aged Children (6-13yo): 9-11 hours, no less than 7 and no more than 12.
  • Teenagers (14-17yo): 8-10, no less than 7, no more than 11.

Some possible causes of insomnia include:

Stress: kids can suffer from stress just like adults.  Any school issues?  Bullying?  How’s family life?  Sibling relationships?  Any changes like recently moving?  Letting your child share their feelings can work wonders.  Naturopathically, we can treat this with adaptive herbs that are gentle for their system.  Consider ashwagandha: it has calming and focusing effects for students and helps calm the mind for restful sleep.

Use of caffeine or other stimulants: besides the obvious ones, many clear sodas and energy drinks have caffeine.

Medication side effects: drugs that treat ADHD, antidepressants, and others may cause insomnia.  We can help manage those side effects through nutrient guidance.

Other medical disorders: Growing pains, thyroid issues, heartburn and muscle cramps may cause insomnia.  We offer physical exams and many lab options to help rule these issues out or in and treat accordingly.  Magnesium is great for muscle cramps and growing pains. Magnesium is also an easy item you can try safely at home.  Food sensitivities may be linked to nightmares and sleep issues.  We offer food sensitivity testing at our office.  Blood sugar dysregulation often causes middle of the night insomnia.  Try a bedtime snack like a couple slices of apple with a nut butter on top or a hard boiled egg.

Environmental factors: Perhaps the room is too hot or too cold, not dark enough, or it’s too noisy.  These can be addressed with the appropriate mattress, bedding and curtains.  Another environmental factor includes restricting electronic usage in the bedroom and turning off Wifi at night.

I am happy to help you and your child/children uncover the source of the sleep difficulty and guide you to a safe and effective plan.  I work with herbs, nutrients, homeopathy, and diet. Contact Boise Natural Health Clinic at (208) 338-0405.